… CONCLUSION …
1.29: There is evidence to support a range of social and economic benefits derived from motorsport, albeit that those impacts are relatively small when considered as part of the wider Forestry England socio-economic impact. Forestry England recognises these benefits, and the legacy relationship between motorsports and the nation’s forests and places value on these. However, it is right that given the economic and environmental context the organisation is working in, plus its objective to become financially self-sustaining and independent of subsidy, that consideration is given to the appropriateness of activities taking place in the forest estate and the contribution and impact of those.
1.30: However, in its current format , it is probable based on analysis of the data available that motorsport does not contribute positively financially, therefore also not contributing to the organisations ability to contribute financially to other social and environmental activities and its wider organisational objectives. Amidst competing priorities, motorsports appear to be at odds with the organisation’s financial sustainability objectives .
1.31: There is therefore a need to challenge previously supported activities to assist the organisation in meeting it s objectives. Whilst not all activities will be a positive contributor to all of these objectives, activities must represent an appropriate strategic fit, and ensure that the organisation is capable of generating sufficient revenue to sustain itself and prioritise investment in natural capital enhancement and enabling access to the widest possible group of users.
1.32: A revised reporting mechanism to evidence the cost of hosting motorsports is necessary in order to establish an accurate baseline from which to determine the validity of proposed changes to the charging mechanism with consideration also being given to the particular impact of each activity rather than a uniform approach to fee increases.
1.33: Aside from the commercial realities, it is undeniable that there are some tensions in an organisation with accountability for the protection and enhancement of a major nationally important natural capital asset to facilitate an activity with the perceived (and actual) environmental impacts of motorsport.
1.34: Motorsport is an activity which is difficult to justify against the environmental objectives of the organisation and therefore if these activities are to be permitted, there is a strong argument that they should demonstrate a step change in the adoption of more environmentally sound practices. It is acknowledged that the localised impacts are less than is often perceived and could be further managed by zoning (which will also help to reduce user group conflict and opportunity losses from forest closures for exclusive motorsport use) but there is more that can and should be done.
1.35: In order to address the tension with environmental objectives, there is an opportunity to make bold moves to harness the partnership between Forestry England and the motorsport community for good and to make a deliberate move towards electric and alternative fuel vehicles for forest motorsports as a statement of intent around environmental custodianship, and to catalyse wider change. This progression towards an environmentally sustainable future for motorsports in the forests will enable Forestry England to off-set the continuation of heritage disciplines of motorsport with which the forests are so heavily linked.
1.36: Whilst this would be a challenging transition to make and detailed assessment of the feasibility of this is required, it would set out a bold ambition which would have an impact beyond the events it hosts – raising the profile of these technologies in motorsports and more broadly. A marked increase in electric vehicle usage in the UK would also help Forestry England to mitigate against its largest environmental challenge which the increasingly high number of visitors using the forests, the vast majority of whom arrive by fossil-fuelled private car .
1.37: Overall, given the environmental considerations, and as yet the unknown longer term impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic, careful thought needs to be given to the weighting of these factors in decision making and should the environmental objective and responsibility to the widest group of forest users be determined to be more important than the loss of the positive social and economic contribution made by motorsports, then ceasing this activity may be the most appropriate course of action .