HC Deb 19 June 2002 vol 387 cc369-70W
Ross Cranston

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she is making on implementation of the rights of way provisions in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. [63475]

Alun Michael

I am today publishing proposals to implement provisions in schedule 6 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act to enable the closure or diversion of rights of way where this is necessary for crime prevention or to promote pupil and teacher safety. These new powers will enable highway authorities to address the disruption caused by persistent criminal activity in back alleys, or gulleys, on housing estates.

As these important new powers are not regarded as a first response to tackling crime, we will designate areas where the new crime prevention powers will be available. Highway authorities will normally take the lead, working with local crime and disorder reduction partnerships, police authorities, local residents and user groups to formulate a submission to the Secretary of State advocating any area at ward level that may warrant inclusion in a designation order. In country areas, the district authority or the local crime and disorder reduction partnership may be able to make a submission if the county is unwilling to do so.

The new schools provisions will enable a highway authority to close or divert a right of way, where it crosses school land, for the purpose of protecting pupils or staff from violence or other risks to their health and safety. These provisions are not subject to the designation process and will be available throughout England.

I am also publishing proposals to implement section 63 of the Act. These new provisions will ensure that members of the public have a means to compel highway authorities to use their powers to remove certain types of obstruction.

Highway authorities already have specific powers to deal with obstructions and recover costs from the persons concerned. These new provisions will empower the public to directly influence the action taken by authorities in dealing with obstructions.

The public will be able to initiate action in relation to the majority of obstructions that cause difficulties for rights of way users, such as fences, overhanging vegetation and barbed wire. We are inviting views on any other forms of obstruction that should be covered by the provisions.

Copies of "Crime Prevention on Rights of Way: Public Consultation paper on the Designation of Areas and Other Procedural Matters", "Enforcement of highway authorities duty to prevent obstructions on rights of way: Consultation Paper on the implementation of section 63 of Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000" have been placed in the Library of the House. Views are invited by 20 September 2002.