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Norfolk Broads

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what rights the local community has in the management of the Norfolk Broads; and if he will make a statement on protection of the environment in the Norfolk Broads.

Under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, the development, conservation and management of the Norfolk Broads is the responsibility of the Broads Authority which consists of 35 members, over half of whom represent local authorities. Thus they play their part in all aspects of the management of the Broads. The protection of the Broads environment is a prime objective of the Broads Authority, endorsed by the Government, and its commitment to that has been amply demonstrated since it came into being in April last year.

Is the Minister satisfied with the work of the new Broads Authority in its first year of operation? When can we expect a report on that work? As the Minister has stressed that more than 50 per cent. of the members of the new authority are elected representatives of the local community, is not it a desirable formula to have local people involved in the management of such an important area, and will he commend that formula to similar areas elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's first point and whether we can make available a report for all hon. Members to see.

As for the hon. Gentleman's second point—I am certain that this is the point he is making—I noticed that on 21 June he asked a similar question about the replication of that model in Northern Ireland, to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Northern Ireland replied that he was prepared to become involved in further discussions about Strangford lough in particular. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman welcomed that assurance and will take advantage of it if he sees fit.

Is my hon. Friend aware that since the new integrated conservation management approach introduced by the Act came into place this unique national asset has been safeguarded for future generations? Will he join me in paying tribute to the Norfolk people and to the one or two Suffolk people who have played a part in the new structure? Does he agree that if the people living around Strangford lough want to learn about conservation they need look no further than Norfolk?

If this carries on we shall have a twinning arrangement between Strangford lough and my hon. Friend's constituency—which may not be too bad an idea. I am happy to pay tribute to the Broads Authority. My hon. Friend may recall that I had the opportunity to do that in the Standing Committee examining the Environmental Protection Bill.

What have Ministers learnt from the ongoing saga of Halvergate marshes, which featured so much in the Committee stage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981? Have they learnt anything about the management of wetlands?

I think that we have learnt a great deal and that that has transposed itself into legislation which we hope will come forward from the European Community.