HC Deb 18 November 1969 vol 791 cc1095-6
16. Mr. Carol Johnson

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what consideration is being given to the future use, for recreational purposes of closed railway lines.

Mr. Greenwood

A study on the re-use of closed railway lines is being made on behalf of the Countryside Commission and the report is expected shortly. Local planning authorities have already converted a number of closed railway lines to public recreational use and many schemes are under consideration.

Mr. Johnson

Would it not help the Countryside Commission to prepare a national policy if my right hon. Friend persuaded the Minister of Transport to relieve British Railways of the obligation to dispose of disused railway sidings as soon as possible? At present there is not time available to work out what could be done with what could be a most valuable addition of land for recreational use by ramblers, motorists, cyclists and horse riders.

Mr. Greenwood

I shall certainly draw this to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. It would be wrong to assume that time has been wasted. The Countryside Commission appointed Dr. Appleton, Reader in Geography at Hull University, to prepare a report on this subject. I hope that that report will be available this month and it will be published early in the new year.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I welcome this development. However, is the Minister aware of the growing anxiety among farmers about the increase in the use of land for recreational facilities, because many people regard farmland as belonging to the public, particularly in the National Parks areas? Will he take steps to see that that impression is corrected, because trespassers must not be encouraged?

Mr. Greenwood

This situation sometimes arised with railway lines. It is important that whenever possible hon. Members draw to the attention of the public the proposals incorporated in the Countryside Code.