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The CAL agreement with NRW has ended

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Dave Tyson

Member
The directors of Cave Access Ltd (CAL) were told on 24/11/21 without any notice in a Zoom meeting with NRW that NRW has unilaterally terminated CAL's mine access agreement with immediate effect.

CAL's scheme had been operating successfully for about 6 years without any concerns being voiced.  But we are now told that NRW requires strong proof of compliance with statutory requirements across its estate.  NRW said its main concern is ensuring that bats are not disturbed which seemed to revolve around the SSSI status of land.  Essentially we were told that if the land was not an SSSI then bats are not an issue.  This demonstrates a failure by NRW staff to understand bats protection is on a national basis and the SSSI status of particular pieces of land neither adds to nor subtracts from that national-level bat protection which applies no matter where the bats are located.  There needs to be more clarity here.

Despite this massive quango being created to integrate environmental management, NRW has divided itself into six operational areas and so no longer has a holistic view of Wales.  So sadly the all-Wales access agreement we have enjoyed will need replacing with up to six separate agreements that cover our mines of interest split up by NRW operational areas. We have agreed with NRW to work on a solution to their North West Wales area first and once that is deemed a success then to try to replicate it in other areas, but this requires cooperation from five other Land Management Team Leaders which is clearly not a given and we may end up with many different access agreements tailored to these employees.

NRW asked CAL to pay for mine surveys done by professional bat ecologists at various times of the year, to be repeated in future years as necessary.  This is infeasible for a voluntary non-funded group like CAL to embrace.  So we told NRW that if they held to this idea then we would not attempt to renew the access scheme, leaving them at a dead end.

We suggested to NRW that installing electronic footfall counters (to count all groups using the mines and not just CAL visitors) and electronic bat activity monitors running all year around provided on a voluntary basis would provide a clearer wider picture and be more accountable than infrequent visits by paid-for consultants writing snapshot style reports.

CAL is not the only organisation affected by this change.  Outdoor Pursuits Centres will also be affected along with underground adventure companies.  Unfortunately NRW is requiring each group to commission its own professional bat surveys even if the surveys done by other groups exist and are in NRW's possession.  So, for example, if several local authorities want to use a mine then all will need to purchase independent bat surveys which concern the very same mine and the cost of this would fall on each local authority.  NRW would then have multiple bat surveys for the same site.  For NRW's purposes, CAL cannot utilise bat surveys commissioned by others and simply reference them as prior art.

Unfortunately there will be no access through CAL for explorers anywhere on NRW's estate whilst CAL endeavours to work with NRW to find a workable solution for their North West Area first.  We think this may take a year if NRW is cooperative and flexible.  If not, then CAL may wind up and NRW would then be left with no obvious lines of communication with mine explorers in the caving community.

Conversely mine explorers in the caving world would have no practical way to obtain permissive access from NRW resulting in a return to the status quo ante which was unregulated, unaccounted for and unconsented activity.

I am sorry to be the bearer of such bad news  :(

For and on behalf of the CAL directors,
Dave Tyson

 

ChrisJC

Active member
Sorry to hear that news Dave.

So are we truly back to the old situation?, or is there a certain way that we should all behave to maximise the chances of a return to a satisfactory access agreement?

Chris.
 

tomferry

Active member
I am sorry to hear about this also , as I said before I am happy to help how I can but I don?t think I can be of much use with this !  :cry:
 

Dave Tyson

Member
ChrisJC said:
Sorry to hear that news Dave.

So are we truly back to the old situation?, or is there a certain way that we should all behave to maximise the chances of a return to a satisfactory access agreement?

Chris.
The ball is firmly in NRW's court and until they decide exactly what forms of bat survey etc. are needed we are in the dark as are the outdoor centres and commercial groups. I believe Go-Below paid for a bat survey in Rhiwbach so they may be covered for access for the time being. I cannot really say much more on an open forum, save to say that this whole issue flies in the face of Welsh Governments desire to promote Wales as the outdoor experience and recreational area of the UK.

The idea that you can take three disparate bodies: Forestry Commission Wales, Countryside Commission Wales and the Welsh environmental agency and shove them all together to make NRW with less funding (and no funding or plan for the merger) seems to be nonsensical - the organisation seems still to be in 'headless chicken' mode - my personal view.

Dave
 

tomferry

Active member
It?s a major shame such selfish people have been going without using the permit system it only took 5 minutes and the information passed on helped make it a safer system of mine exploring for others .


It?s always the way though the decent people suffer because of the others .
 

badger

Member
bureaucracy at its best to confuse the populace, some may call it the mushroom approach. why keep thins simple when you can complicate them, and someone somewhere has been paid a lot of money coming up with this.
 

lumenchild

Member
Dave Tyson said:
The directors of Cave Access Ltd (CAL) were told on 24/11/21 without any notice in a Zoom meeting with NRW that NRW has unilaterally terminated CAL's mine access agreement with immediate effect.

CAL's scheme had been operating successfully for about 6 years without any concerns being voiced.  But we are now told that NRW requires strong proof of compliance with statutory requirements across its estate.  NRW said its main concern is ensuring that bats are not disturbed which seemed to revolve around the SSSI status of land.  Essentially we were told that if the land was not an SSSI then bats are not an issue.  This demonstrates a failure by NRW staff to understand bats protection is on a national basis and the SSSI status of particular pieces of land neither adds to nor subtracts from that national-level bat protection which applies no matter where the bats are located.  There needs to be more clarity here.

Despite this massive quango being created to integrate environmental management, NRW has divided itself into six operational areas and so no longer has a holistic view of Wales.  So sadly the all-Wales access agreement we have enjoyed will need replacing with up to six separate agreements that cover our mines of interest split up by NRW operational areas. We have agreed with NRW to work on a solution to their North West Wales area first and once that is deemed a success then to try to replicate it in other areas, but this requires cooperation from five other Land Management Team Leaders which is clearly not a given and we may end up with many different access agreements tailored to these employees.

NRW asked CAL to pay for mine surveys done by professional bat ecologists at various times of the year, to be repeated in future years as necessary.  This is infeasible for a voluntary non-funded group like CAL to embrace.  So we told NRW that if they held to this idea then we would not attempt to renew the access scheme, leaving them at a dead end.

We suggested to NRW that installing electronic footfall counters (to count all groups using the mines and not just CAL visitors) and electronic bat activity monitors running all year around provided on a voluntary basis would provide a clearer wider picture and be more accountable than infrequent visits by paid-for consultants writing snapshot style reports.

CAL is not the only organisation affected by this change.  Outdoor Pursuits Centres will also be affected along with underground adventure companies.  Unfortunately NRW is requiring each group to commission its own professional bat surveys even if the surveys done by other groups exist and are in NRW's possession.  So, for example, if several local authorities want to use a mine then all will need to purchase independent bat surveys which concern the very same mine and the cost of this would fall on each local authority.  NRW would then have multiple bat surveys for the same site.  For NRW's purposes, CAL cannot utilise bat surveys commissioned by others and simply reference them as prior art.

Unfortunately there will be no access through CAL for explorers anywhere on NRW's estate whilst CAL endeavours to work with NRW to find a workable solution for their North West Area first.  We think this may take a year if NRW is cooperative and flexible.  If not, then CAL may wind up and NRW would then be left with no obvious lines of communication with mine explorers in the caving community.

Conversely mine explorers in the caving world would have no practical way to obtain permissive access from NRW resulting in a return to the status quo ante which was unregulated, unaccounted for and unconsented activity.

I am sorry to be the bearer of such bad news  :(

For and on behalf of the CAL directors,
Dave Tyson

Does this affect access to caves? or just mines?
Should we all invest in ghillie suits?
Will this affect the AALS insurance for taking groups?  :confused:
 

Dave Tyson

Member
lumenchild said:
Does this affect access to caves? or just mines?
Should we all invest in ghillie suits?
Will this affect the AALS insurance for taking groups?  :confused:
Just mines on the CAL list (mainly slate/lead)
Outdoor groups are affected as NRW have barred their access as well.
I think Go-Below still have access to Rhiwbach as they funded a bat survey of the mine just after the Covid restrictions were relaxed.

Dave
 

lumenchild

Member
Dave Tyson said:
lumenchild said:
Does this affect access to caves? or just mines?
Should we all invest in ghillie suits?
Will this affect the AALS insurance for taking groups?  :confused:
Just mines on the CAL list (mainly slate/lead)
Outdoor groups are affected as NRW have barred their access as well.
I think Go-Below still have access to Rhiwbach as they funded a bat survey of the mine just after the Covid restrictions were relaxed.

Dave
 
Thank you for clearing that up.
Hope you have a wonderful day, it's a shame this has happened.
 

Cantclimbtom

Active member
I understand CAL no longer has an access remit and so no authority to grant access
However: Question.... Suppose - someone decided, permission or not, they were going to enter a site formerly access managed by CAL

If they *retrospectively* notified CAL (note the retrospective, not asking CAL to endorse access) would that be beneficial for CAL to know about trips so they can demonstrate that people are still using these sites?
Or would CAL prefer not to hear about "trespassing"?

EDIT: hmmmm..  actually in theory isn't there a bylaw prohibiting entering mines on NRW land, maybe reporting a trip could be a liability?
 

Dave Tyson

Member
Cantclimbtom said:
I understand CAL no longer has an access remit and so no authority to grant access
However: Question.... Suppose - someone decided, permission or not, they were going to enter a site formerly access managed by CAL

If they *retrospectively* notified CAL (note the retrospective, not asking CAL to endorse access) would that be beneficial for CAL to know about trips so they can demonstrate that people are still using these sites?
Or would CAL prefer not to hear about "trespassing"?

EDIT: hmmmm..  actually in theory isn't there a bylaw prohibiting entering mines on NRW land, maybe reporting a trip could be a liability?
Yes, accessing mines on NRW land without explicit permission is now a trespass so please don't notify CAL  :)
"What happens underground, stays underground"

Dave
 

royfellows

Active member
Cantclimbtom said:
EDIT: hmmmm..  actually in theory isn't there a bylaw prohibiting entering mines on NRW land, maybe reporting a trip could be a liability?

Yes there is, and bit of history. Back in the 1980s there was a rescue call out to Rhiwbach whereby a woman slipped on the incline and injured her back. The leader was taking payed for trips to complicate matters, and was prosecuted and fined under what was then, before devolution, Forestry Wales Bye Laws.

In other words, get caught and you could get done.
 

notdavidgilmour

New member
Tomferry said:
It?s a major shame such selfish people have been going without using the permit system it only took 5 minutes and the information passed on helped make it a safer system of mine exploring for others .


It?s always the way though the decent people suffer because of the others .

I could be mistaken, but I don't think this is down to people not using the permit system.  I'm happy to be corrected if I've misinterpreted Dave's post.

Either way, this isn't good news for cavers.  Back to dressing like a rambler then  8)
 
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