HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc989-91

3.31 p.m.

Mr. David Clark (Collie Valley)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the use of barbed wire on fences adjacent to public highways within National Parks. In doing so I should like to emphasise that this applies only to—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask hon. Members to withdraw quietly.

Mr. Clark

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This Bill applies only to National Parks, because I believe it is in the National Parks that this problem is most acute. I would remind the House that the National Parks are designated by Parliament as places of outstanding natural beauty, places where there is the nation's natural heritage which is to be protected, places where people take their recreation, their pleasure and enjoyment, and enjoy all the beauties of those so-called designated areas.

While the Bill is a general Bill I wonder if the House will allow me to particularise in certain respects and to draw an example from my own constituency, of which some falls within the Peak National Park. I should like to emphasise, further, that the Bill is not against all types of fences. I am more conscious than most, perhaps, of the treatment of local people within National Parks, and, indeed, I would suggest that in the past we have got our National Parks on the cheap, or, at least, at the expense of the local indigenous population. No one is more aware than I of this need to earn their living and to protect National Parks, and if we are to keep our parks as living countryside we must retain our farming system.

However, I feel that of late there has been a certain amount of abuse in the guise of agricultural improvement within our National Parks. Certain landowners have taken advantage of the 60 per cent. grants under the capital grants scheme to erect fences within National Parks. Ostensibly the fences are to keep the cattle and the sheep in, and that is a point about which I do not disagree. However, having erected wire fences in many parts of the country they go a stage further and put on top of the wire fences two strands of barbed wire, and I cannot help thinking that the double strands of barbed wire are not primarily to keep the sheep or cattle in. I am of the opinion that they are to keep the general public out, and that should not be the state of affairs within our National Parks.

I have talked to farmers and landowners about this. They say to me, "We need barbed wire fences to protect the fencing underneath". I would submit that this is complete balderdash. I have worked in the forest industry and have from time to time erected miles of fences but I have never once erected a fence of barbed wire.

Clearly, we have to protect the normal fencing, but the normal single strand of normal wire is just as effective as barbed wire.

I should like to give one example of the effect of this developing practice in one part of one National Park. I am sure that this is applicable to other National Parks as well. I refer to an undesirable clement which has manifested in a park in my constituency, within the National Park in the Holmfirth, Meltham and Saddleworth areas. This is a part of the countryside which straddles the Pennines, a part of the countryside which has the atmosphere of the kind which the Brontes themselves described, parts of which some people might refer to as bleak, but others as beautiful; but, indeed, one would have to be without spirit not to regard it as having some mystique.

Traditionally, people have wandered off the roads on to the moors to get their enjoyment and their recreation there. Suddenly this seemingly unchanging scene is dramatically affected and thus within the last 12 months we have seen erected along that route fences, and not only fences but the offensive double strands of barbed wire along the top. I cannot help getting the impression that some part of this moorland is reminiscent of the concentration camp rather than of the freedom one would expect on the Yorkshire moors.

We are finding this development taking place when there is an increasing demand for public access to the countryside. Never before have we had so great a demand, and yet we are finding, even within our National Parks, that there is today less opportunity for access than there was two years ago or even 20 years ago. Only on Sunday more than 200 people braved the weather to attend a walk 1,000 ft. up in the Pennines at the inauguration of a footpath which we managed to negotiate. I am conscious of the demand which there is in an area like that, and we shall have more demand.

That is why I seek leave to introduce this Bill. Under Sections 11 and 37 of the Countryside Act, 1968, many of us felt that this problem would be avoided, but that does not appear to be the case, and that is the reason why I feel there is need for the Bill.

I would submit that the present situation is wasteful, in the sense that we have such a small amount of attractive, beautiful land that it must be used for multi-purposes and not mono-purposes. Barbed wire on top of a fence is offensive to the sightseer. It is dangerous to the walker or passer-by. It goes across many of the moors and many of the footpaths, as in the example I have just mentioned, which is in the famous Pennine Way across the highest stretch of the moor. Finally, I would submit that it is annoying to the general taxpayer who finds he is paying 60 per cent. of the cost of keeping himself out of his own natural heritage.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Clark, Mr. Terry Davis, Mr. Peter Hardy, Mr. Kenneth Lomas, Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu, Mr. Harold Walker, Mr. Brynmor John, and Mr. Caerwyn Roderick.