Orienteering on Forestry Commission Scotland Land

A meeting was held with the FCS in Edinburgh on 16 August.  Campbell Gerrard, Planning Officer – Countryside from sportscotland and Lee Cousins, Chairman of the Scottish Sports Association, Outdoor Pursuits Group (OPG), were also in attendance.  The FCS re-iterated that they were not charging for access but were looking for a contribution for costs incurred dealing with administration.  Colin Matheson highlighted the events that took place on the FCS Estate in 2011 and pointed out how small events attracting good numbers of Juniors would be facing significant costs.  It was pointed out that the areas where we had part-time Regional Development Officers would be worst hit under current proposals. The FCS agreed that adult participants only would be included.  Concern was expressed over the long lead time for events and it was suggested that these could be shortened.  There was also concern about the wording on event cancellation, and the FCS agreed that this could be changed.  It was noted that not only were there significant costs associated with event permissions, but the add on costs such as vehicle access, car parking, filming, sales points etc. could be substantial.  Colin Matheson stated the view that the FCS proposals seemed contrary to their strategic aims e.g. an emphasis on access for all, embracing a diversity of visitors and encouraging people to build exercise into their daily lives.  For major International events it was felt the FCS should be using this as a showcase for what they are able to offer and indeed it was felt they should be making a contribution rather than the other way around.  The FCS said this was a different budget/issue and that any cost recovery from orienteers would go directly back into recreation provision in the local forest district. Colin Matheson was very concerned that the FCS was seen as setting a precedent for other landowners to charge and there was a real danger in escalation of costs.  It was agreed that participation figures, split between adults and juniors, would be provided.

Following on from the meeting Colin summarised the situation to a meeting the OPG on 11 September.  There was concern that the FCS was attempting to pick off sports one-by-one though they had stated that they felt the needs of each sport was different so that agreements needed to be different.  It was pointed out to the meeting that the original document received still had the header Scottish Cycling Events PPA and that the Forestry Commission Agreement with British Orienteering (for England & Wales) was used as the basis for charging.  The OPG feels that if the FCS insists on cost recovery it has to be reasonable and affordable.  The OPG will invite Alan Stevenson, Head of Communities, Recreation and Tourism to a meeting to present the FCS case.  The view of many members within the SOA is that charges cannot be justified, and that this issue should be raised with the Press and at a political level.  These options will only be followed up “officially” by the SOA once Alan Stevenson has an opportunity to present to the OPG.

It should be noted that one Forest District has demanded £50 payment for access for one vehicle to the forest (Errochty).  Previously no charge had been levied.  Fiona Murray, Forest Tourism Development Manager stated “The £50 vehicle permission charge is one which is made to everyone who needs to access the forest by car, for whatever purpose.” The Forest District also sent the event organiser a list of over 25 stakeholders who should be contacted.  Fiona stated that “the requirement to notify stakeholders is something which is relevant to all activities and events, including orienteering.”  We obviously depend on the FCS for many events, so some sort of agreement has to be reached.  We are some of their best advocates and it has been suggested that they should be paying us for helping them meet their strategic objectives.

Previously:  The Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) presented Scottish Orienteering with a proposed new “Agreement” for orienteering on their land.  SOA contest the terms (and legality) of what is being proposed

The map summarises events held in 2011 on and off FCS land and the spreadsheet shows what the additional costs would be – very damaging for clubs hosting small events if the number of competitors is expected to exceed 50. 

Charges would be £200 (plus additional parking charges, charges for additional officials vehicles and VAT).  A £50 booking fee is payable in advance.  A meeting has been set for Thursday 16 August with FCS and sportScotland.  Clearly such an “Agreement” could set a dangerous precedent.  Clubs organising events in 2012 and beyond should continue to complete standard application forms (provided by their local FCS District Office) until further notice.

Members are invited to comment direct to Colin Matheson via the Contacts page.