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Off Road Matters

ARC FORWARD PLAN                                                                     

ADVICE TO CLUBS ON SENSIBLE USE OF THE COUNTRYSIDE


Introduction

The article in the 2005 ARC Handbook The future of motor sport and recreation contains the words  '... it would appear that the use of vehicles in the countryside is set to become more restrictive and the tide of public opinion continues to run against their use off tarmac'.  That rather pessimistic view had been given credence in 2003 by the government attempting to curtail the existing Town and Country Planning '14/28 day rule' under which motor sport takes place without specific planning permission.   The restrictive effects of the Single Payment Scheme and cross compliance regulations which were introduced in 2005 are now causing severe restrictions on motor sport. 
The latest news on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities [NERC] Bill which is currently progressing through parliament is that recreational driving in the countryside is effectively doomed.  More information about this will be made available in due course.
It is therefore of paramount importance that a responsible attitude is adopted regarding the use of off-road vehicles in the countryside.


Important change affecting off-road events.

Following European Commission reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy which applies to all EU member states, the link between production and support ceased at the end of 2004.  The Single Payment Scheme [SPS], introduced by Regulation 1782/2003, replaced most crop and livestock payments from January 2005.  Farmers are now required to demonstrate that they are keeping their land in good agricultural and environmental condition and complying with a number of legal requirements relating to the environment, public and plant health, and animal health and welfare.  Meeting these requirements is described in the regulations as 'cross compliance'.

In March 2005, the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA] issued a guidance note stating that if a farmer allowed any motor sport event to take place within the 10-month period he had chosen in any year when the relevant land 'was at his disposal', no payment claim could be made.  This was because motor sport was an activity considered 'inconsistent with land remaining in agricultural use'.

The resulting restriction on motor sport was successfully challenged by the Land Access and Recreation Association [LARA] which resulted in revised DEFRA guidance being issued the following July in which motor sport events were included in the same category as clay pigeon shoots, car boot sales, equestrian events etc which are permitted up to 28-days during the 10-month period.  This is the present situation but DEFRA has indicated that the situation will be reviewed at the end of 2005.
This guidance is still subject to the current so-called 14/28 day rule which limits temporary change of use for motor sport events on any land to 28 days in a calendar year of which not more than 14 days can include racing.
The 28 days permitted under SPS does not in any way override the 14/28 day planning rule as regards racing/non-racing events. 

However, the cross compliance conditions that farmers are required to observe in order to receive SPS payments apply for the whole calendar year to all the land in an agricultural holding, not just the area entered into the SPS.  The element of cross compliance that impacts on motor sport events is the requirement to keep the land in good agricultural and environmental condition [GAEC]. 
The use of set-aside land required under SPS for motor sport carries certain restrictions and organisers should ensue that a minimum of damage is caused by events particularly to the 'green cover' [grass, various sown plants or natural regeneration].  Even minor damage must be repaired promptly.
Land not in agricultural production cannot be used for 'non-farm vehicular use' so that would preclude motor sport events.
Cross compliance also includes a requirement for farmers to prepare soil management plans to prevent soil erosion and waterlogging.  Farmers will need to consider whether a motor sport event is likely to lead to either of these conditions that would require restorative action.

As far as any public right of way is concerned, a motor sport event that disturbs the surface of a 'visible' right of way may cause the farmer to be in breach of cross compliance conditions.  'Visible' is defined as 'visible as a route to a person with normal eyesight walking or riding along it'.

This is a rough guide only and member clubs are advised that they should keep themselves up to date with DEFRA's advice to farmers and farming policy which may change at short notice as this is an on-going issue.  The 10-month rule is a key aspect of being able to use land which clubs need to appreciate and understand. 
 
Clubs should already be aware of the Guidance Note for LARA Members 'Single Payment Scheme, Cross Compliance and Motor Sport' issued in August 2005.  
The relevant DEFRA website is:  http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/capreform/singlepay/land/index.htm and the MSA website should also be checked for any changes.
 

Tony Kempster

ARC Countryside Access Officer
October 2005

 

 

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