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The CAL agreement with NRW has ended

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ChrisJC

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

I'm going to dress like a caver. If I get caught, I will put on an Australian accent and ask if they know the way to Adelaide.

Chris.
 
This falling-out was not fuelled by people visiting the mines who had not got NRW permission via the former CAL access scheme.  People not using the scheme is not the fault of the scheme, and in any case nearly all the permitted mines were not in any way secured against unauthorised entry by NRW.

NRW told us it has simply become more risk averse because it gets many FOIRs from single-issue groups seemingly intent on demonstrating that NRW is not upholding the law to protect things of value to these groups.  Bats were said to be top of that list.  NRW maybe fears being held accountable in public and of being required to publish embarrassing FOIR answers about itself on its own website.  And if a complaint got really serious then it might result in NRW decisions being Judicially Reviewed which exposes NRW to High Court scrutiny, pushing things up to a whole new level.

Now that NRW has killed off the permissive access scheme everyone is back at the status quo ante which is that explorers would have no choice but to visit without consent if they're intent on doing it.  The need for consent to enter mines on government forestry land may not be obvious since walkers and cyclists and horse riders have 'unbridled' access to the same forests.

I don't imagine NRW is going to try to defend its territory and their staff are not allowed underground for H&S reasons.  So interest would likely arise when people admitted to breaking forestry byelaws in their social media postings or magazine articles, or if rescue services became involved somewhere people should not have been, as per the back injury incident mentioned earlier.

Determined people will still venture underground, but now in more senses than one, they'll do the same things and visit the same places as formerly, and so from a conservation viewpoint having explicit permission or not seems to be neutral.

NRW scrapped a workable lawful access system created by explorers for explorers who wished to avail themselves of it, one that suited and managed modest levels of activity well and of which there has never been any criticism.  They have thus left themselves with no rational basis for their opposite numbers in recreation to return to talk with them, and they also risk losing some general support too given the craven rationale for denying future access as we understand it.

 

Dave Tyson

Member
One other thing to note is that in the unlikely event someone got caught and NRW decided to prosecute then I think a good defense council could absolutely nail NRW for removing a scheme which allowed legal access and worked well for very tenuous reasons. There is plenty of evidence from other parts of the country that cavers and bats have happily coexisted. The resultant publicity might result in NRW getting rather more FOIR's from concerned groups to the point that they just give up or spend an inordinate amount of money trying to secure sites which have multiple ways in. They are in a lose-lose situation regardless.

Dave 
 

Cantclimbtom

Active member
:coffee: hmmm... given that mine exploring is likely to be seen by a magistrate (in their judgement) as an unusually dangerous activity, I wouldn't at all be surprised if it was taken as "strict liability" and defences like didn't know, or used to be the situation that, etc may not help. Probably it's a can of worms and those are the situations where only the lawyers seen to profit :(
I'd agree with your earlier comment, the activity is best covered by the 11th commandment
 

robnorthwales

New member
royfellows said:
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.

I'd suspect that the Forestry by-laws have been superseded by the CROW Act and other legislation which has led to open access land. Which specifically allow such acts as climbing (and thus abseiling), walking, etc. Add in the reluctance of NRW to actually do anything that might put them foul of other pieces of legislation (bulldozing entrances might be problematic for bat or newt protection, for example), and the vast majority of their staff being office-based (mainly in Cardiff), and I suspect that there's not going to be much that comes to their attention.
 

ChrisJC

Active member
Sadly the CROW argument is as yet unresolved. There are 6194 posts on here already about how it relates to caving, and the judicial review being driven by David Rose to try to resolve it.

I am going on the fact that there isn't anybody who is likely to complain, mostly because they are all too busy responding to FOI requests to be actually out in the woods.

Chris.
 

BradW

New member
Cavers, of course, are not a single issue group, or at least not one that would raise FOI requests to pursue an agenda.
 

ChrisJC

Active member
Two questions arise:
1. Did the CAL statistics get sent to NRW, i.e. do NRW know how many people visit the mines?
2. Are discussions over?, or are CAL and NRW still talking?

Chris.
 

Graigwen

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

I'm going to dress like a caver. If I get caught, I will put on an Australian accent and ask if they know the way to Adelaide.

Chris.

You might find it useful to view this account of a 14th century iron mine in Cumbria that reached 20th century New Zealand. (It is rather a good film.)

https://www.nzfilm.co.nz/films/navigator

.
 
I confirm that CAL did submit annual reports and statistics to NRW.  We did not receive comments of any substance on these documents from NRW in return, nor any suggstions or complaints.  This is since March 2015 when the agreement came into effect.

NRW appears to be in breach of contract due to not giving us 6 weeks notice of termination in the absence of any identification of a breach by CAL and proper notice being given of that.  They terminated the agreement verbally in a Zoom meeting which was unexpected.  This has not been confirmed in writing yet and it is not clear NRW ever intends to do so.  We will follow this up.

We will continue discussions with NRW for a while but it is not clear yet if they will move their new position away from demanding things from CAL that we simply cannot do and are in any case disproportionate to CAL.  Obviously if they maintain that position the matter will be closed by us pretty quickly.

That doesn't mean to say it can't be revisited.  In my experience of resolving business contracts with NRW that contained utterly unreasonable demands on their part, it can take up to a year for things to escalate to a level in the organisation where someone senior enough on their side with full authority to negotiate engages meaningfully to obtain resolution in principle and then action it down the line.
 

ttxela2

Active member
Oh dear  :(

Well first of all, many thanks to all those involved with CAL for their work so far, I know I have benefitted greatly from it, as will have many other folk on here.

Secondly, booo to NRW generally in this instance.

Thirdly, if I were interested in bats and there welfare to any degree (which I sort of am) I think I'd probably much prefer a proper access and recording scheme to be in place.

Fourthly, if there is anything those in the know think we could do to help resolve this please let me know.
 

PeteHall

Moderator
If it's of use (probably not in this instance), I know a number of licenced bat ecologists, one of whom does quite a number of underground surveys. I'm happy to have an off-the-record chat if it might be helpful.

The issue is that ecologists generally tend to prefer to arse-cover when it comes to bats, so they might not provide the pragmatic advice we are looking for.
 

ChrisJC

Active member
PeteHall said:
If it's of use (probably not in this instance), I know a number of licenced bat ecologists, one of whom does quite a number of underground surveys. I'm happy to have an off-the-record chat if it might be helpful.

The issue is that ecologists generally tend to prefer to arse-cover when it comes to bats, so they might not provide the pragmatic advice we are looking for.

It would be interesting to know if there is a background to this which non bat people would not be aware of, e.g.:
- People are using bat protection legislation vexatiously to prevent developments, antagonise the Forestry Commission etc.
- There have been legal changes, maybe a case recently won which increased potential penalties for bat bothering.
- A decline in the number of bats
- New legislation protecting bats, or demanding their recording, or placing restrictions on activities that might disturb them.

Chris.
 

royfellows

Active member
Please dont everyone just write off CAL
Stuart, Dave and me are still here and willing to talk if and when sense prevails.

For what its worth, my 'dept of simple solutions' would be to include possibility of bats on the Risk Assessments and the mitigation would be the guidelines taken from the NRW leaflet "Bats underground, what you need to know"

In the meantime, I counsel some caution. This has come like a bolt out of the blue and we have no knowledge of what 'forces' if any may be at work behind this. Or if such 'forces' exist, the agenda. Maybe best to stay away from the mines for a while, just a suggestion.
 
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