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Off Road Matters

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 non-agricultural purposes.

 

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 effect".

 

Tony Kempster

ARC Countryside Access Officer
20th May 2005

 

 

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