Clause 18

Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Power to deal with trees on neighbouring land

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 14, in clause 18, page 12, line 7, at end add

‘, and is subject to the conditions set out in subsection (3)’.

Clauses 18 and 19 quite rightly deal with trees, because overhanging trees could delay the scheduled works, and it is understandable that they might need to be trimmed or removed so that they no longer obstruct the construction or operation of Crossrail. Clause 18 allows the owner of a tree to appeal against any such action and entitles them to receive compensation for loss or damage. One would be hard-pressed to disagree with the general provisions. The amendment is not designed to revise that purpose, or the general principle behind it, but to make the process slightly more watertight.

Subsection (4) enables the nominated undertaker to do the work himself, if the owner of the tree has not undertaken to do so within 28 days of being served a notice by the nominated undertaker. However, the clause would benefit if the words of the amendment were appended because there will undoubtedly be some cases in which the reason for the landowner’s inaction will be that he has objected to the proposed works in accordance with subsection (2). It may be that, within those 28 days, he has served a counter-notice and is therefore awaiting confirmation by a county court. When the 28-day deadline expires, he may still be waiting for that response. If that is the case, it will be prudent for the nominated undertaker to await the judgment of the county court before starting work on the affected tree. By making a reference to subsection (3) in subsection (4), we would ensure that the nominated undertaker would not start chopping off branches before he was sure that any appeal to the courts has been properly processed.

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I can see what the hon. Gentleman is attempting to achieve with the amendment, but I can tell him that the powers featured in subsection (4) are not what he assumes them to be. I will explain.

The clause deals with the removal or lopping of overhanging trees on adjacent land that is necessary for the Crossrail works to be constructed or maintained, and for their safe operation. The nominated undertaker can give notice and, if there is no objection, can undertake the works after 28 days, if the owner has not dealt with the trees himself. If a counter-notice is served within the 28-day period, the notice has no effect unless confirmed by a county court. That provision is very similar to that provided under the 1996 Act, which used a procedure for notices and counter-notices similar to that provided under the Telecommunications Act 1984. That Act gives the landowner the suitable protection that he can choose to lop or remove the trees himself, but if he disputes the need for lopping or removal, he can serve a counter-notice. In that case, no action can be taken, unless the county court confirms the notice.

If the intention behind the amendment is that the county court should confirm every notice, whether contested or not, I would argue that it would add no benefit. If a landowner has done nothing about a notice, it is highly likely that the county court consideration would be uncontested. It is unclear, therefore, what such consideration would achieve. However, it would create extra work, including for the courts, and might cause delay. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I initially thought that the Minister was saying that the serving of a counter-notice stopped the time limit on the notice. Was that what he was saying?

Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

If a counter-notice is served, no action can be taken until it is confirmed by a county court.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. If that is the procedure, my amendment is rendered unnecessary, and I beg to ask to leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.