'Quiet' row looms over national parks Bill

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The Independent Online

Environment Correspondent

Ministers will today attempt to axe the word ''quiet'' from important new national parks legislation - thereby ensuring a great din in Parliament.

Opposition parties and environmental groups say the Government has chosen the last moment to cave in to noisy sports lobbyists such as shooting clubs and car rally promoters.

They fear that one of the best chances to promote the peace and tranquillity of the 10 parks in England and Wales for future generations is about to be lost.

The Environment Bill redefines the purposes of the National Parks, which cover one-tenth of the nation's land area.The Bill started off in the Lords where Tory peer, Lord Norrie,inserted an amendment that one purpose was to promote ''opportunities for quiet enjoyment and understanding of the special qualities'' of the parks.

When the Bill is debated in the Commons today, ministers will introduce an amendment to lose the word ''quiet''. Labour and the Liberal Democrats will oppose this and probably lose, leaving the Lords with the final say on whether to reintroduce it.

The Council for National Parks, a coalition of conservation groups, said the Norrie amendment would have made the local council committees which run the parks concentrate their energies on promoting quiet leisure pursuits such as sailing, walking and climbing.

Groups promoting noisy sports feared the Bill would have encouraged the committees to restrict their activities. Ministers will argue today that it has proved impossible to legally define what ''quiet'' means.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England said ''this is no excuse for bottling out''.

Conservationists also oppose another Government amendment to make a quarter of park committee members local parish councillors. They say this will make them more parochial and less inclined to consider the national interest in preserving natural beauty and wildness.