The most important issue
currently threatening motor sport is the effect of guidance issued by
DEFRA [Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs] setting out the
government's interpretation of EU Council Regulation 1782/03 which
introduces the new SPS [Single Payment Scheme] for farmers.
Basically, from January 2005,
instead of farmers receiving grant aid for producing crops or livestock,
all specific production supports are being rolled into a single farm
payment conditional upon the farmer complying with certain regulations and
on keeping his land in good agricultural and environmental condition [GAEC].
For the establishment of SPS
entitlements, the scheme specifies that land eligible for the scheme must
be an 'eligible hectare' which excludes land that is used for
Initial DEFRA guidance issued
at the end of March 2005 included 'all motor sports' in the category of
activities that are inconsistent with land being considered as remaining
in agricultural use during the ten month period that farmers are required
to specify as being at their disposal. That would mean that motor sport
would be restricted to only two months in the year.
In addition, co-called cross
compliance conditions, comprising GAEC and statutory management
conditions, would apply for the whole calendar year.
Because of the severe threat to
grass roots motor sport and the number of planned events being cancelled
by farmers, LARA [Land Access and Recreational Association] decided to
challenge DEFRA's initial guidance by seeking a judicial review.
The relevant papers were
delivered to the High Court on 13th May 2005.
Was it a coincidence that later
on the same day DEFRA issued updated guidance?
Motor sports had been moved
from the category of activities being considered inconsistent with land
remaining in agricultural use to those permitted up to a 28 day limit in
the year which was the basis of LARA's legal challenge.
However, cross compliance
conditions will still apply to land used for motor sport.
The current situation [20th
May] is that the High Court challenge remains an option to establish the
legal situation rather than rely on guidance from DEFRA which states
"will be kept under review to ensure that it is having the desired
ARC Countryside Access Officer
20th May 2005