HC Deb 07 October 2003 vol 411 cc118-9W
Janet Anderson:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers are available to local authorities compulsorily to purchase land designated as an urban common under the Law of Property Act 1925 to ensure continued access to and use of the land by the general public for leisure and recreation and the protection of wildlife. [131671]

Alun Michael:

Powers are available under various enactments that may enable public authorities compulsorily to purchase common land to secure continued public access. Such powers are contained in, for example, section 76 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, section 164 of the Public Health Act 1875 and section 19 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. It is for the local authority concerned to determine which powers might apply in the particular circumstances and, if so, whether it would be appropriate to use them.

Under the provisions of section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925, the public already has a statutory right of access for air and exercise t o any common which was wholly or partly in a borough or urban district prior to 1 April 1974. Section 194 of this Act enables a county or district council, or any other person with a legal interest in the land, to make an application to the county court for the removal of works unlawfully carried out on common land that prevent or impede access, and the restoration of the land to its previous condition. This might be an alternative to compulsory purchase.

Mr. Jim Cunningham:

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs what action her Department has taken to encourage local councils to fulfil their obligation to clear rights of way. [131449]

Alun Michael:

Section 63 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 introduced new powers that will enable members of the public to oblige local highway authorities to secure the removal of certain types of obstruction, unless it can show that there are good reasons for not doing so. Defra aims to make regulations implementing these powers later this year. In addition, the introduction of 'Best Value' from 1 April 2000, requires local authorities to seek continuous improvement in the way they carry out their functions. The Best Value performance indicator for rights of way includes a specific measure for ease of use of rights of way.