FORESTRY ENGLAND – MOTORSPORTS REVIEW
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1.1: Forestry England have commissioned Rural Solutions Ltd. to undertake an independent review of motorsports in the nation’s forests in order to inform decisions as to the future of motorsports in these settings .
1.2: Forestry England periodically review the operation and associated impact of many of the activities that take place within the nation’s forests to determine how best to balance the objectives of environmental protection and enhancement with public access and amenity delivered via an economically sustainable operating model. Rural Solutions’ review of motorsports comprises the input of over 1,700 internal and external stakeholders alongside a desktop review of available information.
1.3: Both two and four-wheeled motorsports have a long-standing historic association with land Forestry England manage with some events dating back to the early 20th century and Forest rallying in the UK recognised globally as among some of the best event terrain in the world. More recently in 2019, Forestry England hosted 70 motorsport events across a range of 2 and 4 wheel disciplines. The facility and opportunity that Forestry England forests provide to the motorsports sector are regarded by the sector as an important part of the infrastructure supporting grassroots activity as well as contributing to high performance rallying and the UK’s position as a leading nation in motorsports. Motorsport is a sport with a moderate number of participants and enthusiasts (relative to other mass participation sports) who engage with events at Forestry England sites, making up less than 0.01 % o f all visits to Forestry England estate.
1.4: Forestry England’s current approach to motorsport activity provides exclusivity to MS UK and the ACU for organised motorsport events and operates a permit system whereby event organisers are charged a fee in exchange for permission to hold a regulated motorsports event. Forestry England also collect fees associated with temporary orders to restrict Countryside Rights of Way (CROW), orders required to provide temporary exclusive forest use for motorsport-users on safety-grounds. The organiser works alongside the local Forestry England team to determine the most appropriate timing, routing and operational format of each event. Forestry England usually close the forests hosting the events to other users of the forest for the duration of the event as a safety precaution.
1.5: The stakeholder consultation revealed some misconceptions around the requirement for a permit to operate amongst motorsports participants. A large proportion of motor sports stakeholder respondents put forward the view that the public have an unconstrained right to access the forests by virtue of legislation published in the Countryside Right of Way Act, 2000 (CROW).
The CROW Act states that the public are normally allowed to access open land on foot to walk, sightsee, bird-watch, climb and run. It also notes however that there are exceptions within this legislation and provides a list of activities not automatically permitted where a permissive right of way does not exist, several of which apply to motorsports.
1.6: Overall, the review suggests that motor sport s events are well run and operate in acceptable safety parameters, however events can occasionally cause localised disruption to the enjoyment of other forest users when access is restricted to accommodate events.
1.7: There is a currently largely unquantifiable resource requirement for Forestry England through the staff time and cost required to administrate and oversee the operation of the events which varies by location and event. Other costs include the reinstatement of forest roads post-event and managing any complaints and incidences which arise as a result of motor sports events.
1.8: Due to the current internal Forestry England reporting structure, it is difficult to assess accurately the exact costs associated with undertaking motor sports events on Forestry England managed land, but evidence would suggest that at present motorsport operations represent at best a break-even commercial activity, and that it is probable that once all operational costs are identified and apportioned accurately that motorsport may in fact be achieving an operating deficit for Forestry England.
1.9 : As with all activity on Forestry England forests motorsports must justify its place within the context of the benefit that the activity delivers against the cost at which it is delivered, considering the social, economic and environmental factors attributed to both. Whilst the objective is not profit, it is important to Forestry England that activities contribute positively to the organisations’ aim to increase the percentage of self-funded activity. This objective requires that most activities and events hosted should at least generate sufficient income to cover direct and indirect costs, ideally generating a surplus to enable reinvestment in the public forestry asset.
1.10: Motorsport within the nation’s forests is an activity undertaken by a small minority forest user group. Whilst its low volume is helpful in managing its environmental impact, it also limits the scale of (aggregate) social benefit that can be derived from these activities. It is estimated that motorsport within Forestry England landholding contributes between £2.2 and £2.4 million per annum to rural economies alongside the social and health and wellbeing benefits generated, however motorsport also represents challenges to the environment and some tensions with other forest user groups.
1.11: Whilst some of those environmental impacts are determined to be greater in perception than actuality and can be dealt with through robust operational management, regulation, public communications and continued advancements in technological mitigation, others are prejudicial to the natural capital of the estate. The view expressed by many consultees from both Forestry England and to a lesser degree the motorsports sector, is that this must be balanced by enhancement elsewhere.
1.12: Communities affected by the events are on the whole supportive, in particular given the localised economic benefits, but disruption around events can cause tension. The wider forest user group are impacted marginally due to the limited frequency of these events, but for those who are affected by closures that impact is profound and leaves a negative impression of the sport, and of Forestry England as landowner when access is denied to other users.
1.13: Forestry England recognise the value that the use of the estate brings to the sport, and the engagement of participants and spectators and associated economic benefit to local communities but need to balance this with wider objectives in terms of environmental management and public access .