… OPTIONS & OPPORTUNITIES …
1.14: In order to determine the right future for motorsports and Forestry England, consideration has been given to the options available to balance those competing influences. There are three main options to consider:
1. Stop – The agreements with MS UK and the ACU are not reinstated as Covid-19 restrictions ease and motorsports on the Forestry England Estate does not resume.
2. Continue – Maintenance of the status quo with renegotiated financial terms to ensure operational deficit is reversed.
3. Evolve and Adapt – Continue, but in an evolved manner, to permit motorsport activity in adapted format.
1.15: Option 1 results in the unilateral cessation of motorsports activity permanently in Forestry England’s forests to enable the organisation to focus its resource on its more main stream visitor activities and environmental objectives, furthermore removing the perceived (and in some cases actual) negative environmental impacts on these specific forest sites.
1.16: The environmental considerations are wider than the direct impact and should be considered in the context of the UK’s declaration of the climate emergency and associated legally binding carbon zero 2050 target. As a public body, and custodian of one of England’s greatest environmental assets, consideration should be given to the appropriateness of Forestry England facilitating an activity that more widely has overt, albeit limited negative environmental consequences.
1.17: Motorsport delivers a material social and economic benefit from a limited number of events per annum which would be lost or at the least displaced should these events cease. The consequences for the sport would be negative with a reduction in available sites to carry out events which sector stakeholders reported as a real threat to the viability of forest rallying in England.
1.18: To enable a more accurate judgement of the financial implications of this option a detailed cost-analysis process is recommended. Whilst inconsistencies in how present-day financial data is recorded nationally with in Forestry England mean that an accurate assessment of the holistic costs associated with motorsport operations is not possible, it is probably based on the data provided that at break-even at best, cessation would remove the time and cost resource demands for Forestry England. This should be viewed also as a lost income stream.
1.19: This option assumes that all motors port is equally impactful and applies a one-size-fits-all solution which fails to recognise that some activities, for example motor cycle trials events, are financial-contributors with less negative impact on the environment or staff resource. With some operational improvements there is potential for motorsport to not only become financially self-sufficient, but that it could also generate sufficient financial surplus to contribute to enhancement programmes that off-set the negative impacts of motorsport, perceived or otherwise.
1.20: On balance, it would seem that there are opportunities for evolution or adaptation that could mitigate the negative effects and present opportunity for collaboration with the motorsport community on the adoption of emerging technologies to reduce environmental impact that should be explored further before this decision were to be taken.
1.21: Option 2 assumes that the existing quantum, location and nature of motorsports activities continue broadly unchanged. It is evident from the analysis that while continuation of motorsport provides a social, health and wellbeing asset to motorsport attendees and a degree of social and economic benefit to local communities, there are also reputational, operational, financial and strategic risks associated with reinstating a renegotiated but largely unchanged motorsports programme.
1.22: It remains the case that although this report has explored the environmental impacts of motorsport and evidence is suggestive that these impact s are moderate due to the relatively low-volume participation in motorsports events within the forests, the perceived impact of motorsport remains in conflict with the organisational objectives and undermines the organisation’s messaging around caring for the nation’s forests. Forestry England are in a position of significant influence on environmental affairs and adoption of Option 2 represents a missed opportunity to extend this level of influence and consideration to include motorsport and its audience.
1.23: In order to put in place a new charging structure and enable a fair apportionment of costs to inform a new permit and mileage charging strategy, a detailed cost analysis audit is required to quantify the degree of change required to cover-costs.
1.24 Renegotiated financial terms provides a partial solution to the limitations of the current terms of motorsport activity however it addresses neither environmental impact nor public perception thereof. It is probable that additional land management complexity will result from the increased numbers of general public users to the forests that have been witnessed in 2020, which will incur additional costs in ensuring safe visitor operations are maintained, costs which it is not yet possible to estimate. This increase in operational costs in addition to the rising costs of the time and civil engineering resource associated with managing motorsport within Forestry England’s forests would mean that the likely renegotiated fee proposal for motorsport events permits would have to be considerably higher to generate sufficient annual income to cover operational expenses. It is recognised that tensions caused by permit fee increases should be considered during the renegotiation process however many stakeholders touched upon the sentiment that motorsports has historically gotten a great deal of value from the nation’s forests and if motorsport is to be allowed to continue, it must address the costs with which its operation is associated .
1.25: Recommencement of activity on the same or similar terms could provide a short to medium term solution whilst the parameters of a future strategy are considered in partnership with motorsports organisations to determine if an approach that better meets Forestry England’s objectives can be developed. This also puts in place safeguards for the sector as the continual increases in permit and mileage charges will invariably become cost-prohibitive to motorsports without wider adaptations to the way in which these events are managed.
1.26: If this option is adopted as an intermediate solution, then Forestry England must undertake to communicate more widely forest closures resulting from motorsport activity to ensure user-group conflict and safety issues are minimised.
1.27: Option 3 is to introduce policy, infrastructure and operational amendments which provide the motorsport community with some continued access to some Forestry England sites focussed on minimising environmental impacts and establishing a viable commercial approach to motorsport. Within this approach there are thought to be three particular opportunities to improve the balance between commercial viability and the management of environmental impacts whilst enabling the continuation of motorsports. These are:
· Innovate to reduce environmental impact – in particular with a focus on evolving motorsports on Forestry England land to being undertaken with alternative fuelled vehicles. This presents an opportunity to retain motorsports in the forests but with reduced impact and uses Forestry England’s influence to accelerate and promote the transition to electric and other alternative fuelled vehicles which are starting to be introduced across motorsports disciplines.
· Amend charging structure – determine an appropriate charging structure for the continuation of motorsports that ensures events are undertaken without an unacceptable cost to Forestry England.
· Zoning and dedicated sites for motorsports – this could involve undertaking motorsports predominantly on sites identified as designated motorsports forests (centres) to enable more efficient management, as well as potentially furthering the development of motorsports through dedicated facilities.
1.28: A combination of the opportunities set out above may present a viable and justifiable case to continue motorsports on the Forestry England Estate, subject to further research and stakeholder engagement to test the feasibility of some of the proposals put forward. The optimum approach would enable Forestry England to continue with motorsport events, a forest leisure activity with a dedicated following and associated social and economic benefits, in a format that is commercially viable whilst pushing the boundaries of environmental innovation and progress.