Author Topic: BCA Meeting CRoW Report  (Read 8380 times)

Online Badlad

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BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« on: April 09, 2016, 10:43:48 pm »
Dear all

A lengthy BCA meeting today, discussing and deliberating on the points raised over CRoW by all corners of the debate - and all the normal business of Council.  The BCA secretary will publish the full wording of motions and minutes in due course but I am willing to report that Council is comfortable with its constitution and direction it is taking.  There are level heads around that table who listen to all sides and I personally thank them for their time and effort at Council.

There has been a lot of misinformation concerning the BCA CRoW Campaign so in the interest of transparency and placing fact before the membership I will post my full report to Council.  It is long report, and you may tire reading it, but I wanted to ensure all details of what has been done in the name of BCA members is available to as many as wish knowledge of it.

This report, just like my two previous reports, was accepted by Council.  Tim Allen, CRoW Liaison Officer, BCA.

Online Badlad

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2016, 10:49:29 pm »
CRoW Liaison Officer Report to Council – 5th April 2016.

Since the last council meeting I have been able to spend time on the BCA campaign.  Most of this has been spent following up on work already reported to council.  Again I have tried very hard to conduct myself within acceptable parameters and I hope this report meets with Council approval.

1.   National LAF conferences. 

The Local Access Forums are the statutory consulting body set up under the CRoW Act and comprise an equal mix of landowners, business interests and outdoor groups.  Their principal role is to advise decision making authorities about improvements to public access for outdoor recreation.  As mentioned in my previous reports I have attended a number of LAF meetings to promote caving and improved access.  Cllr Richard Toon is the chair of the Lancashire LAF and chair of the North West group of chairs and he participated in the ‘VIP’ caving trip at Christmas.  As an occasional caver Richard supports the BCA campaign and recommended that I attend the two National LAF conferences with him and take the opportunity to inform LAF members of the BCA campaign.   In the event I was unable to attend as a non LAF member but Richard offered to promote the issue on our behalf if I could supply him with some material.  Consequently I designed a roller banner and printed a brief for him to give out.  Richard attended both conferences and I met with him after for a debrief.  He reported that everyone he spoke to was sympathetic and supportive of the BCA campaign.  No-one seemed to understand the illogical position taken by Defra over how the Act applies to caving.  Richard also wrote a supportive piece for the conference newsletter.  This was a good opportunity to get the message out to a body very much at the heart of CRoW yet representative of all interests including landowners.  As an information exercise this was very successful and I hope it will pay dividends in the future.

2.   Sport & Recreations Alliance

Following preliminary contacts with such organisations as the British Mountaineering Council and Outdoor Industries Association I was invited to attend a meeting of the Access Working Group hosted at the Sports & Recreation Alliance in Central London.  The group meet regularly and are made up of representatives from a wide range of outdoor organisations.  In advance of the meeting I sent out a briefing note which set out the basics of our case and made clear that we were not seeking to change or amend the law but considered that the existing law already covered caving.  The meeting was chaired by S&RA senior policy advisor, James Allen (no relation), S&RA staff and representatives from activities including climbing, fishing, horse riding, walking and orienteering.  I was given about half an hour of the meetings time which thanks to the pre meeting briefing was taken up with further questions and answers and informative suggestions of how to go about changing Defra’s mind.  These included focusing on the messages given out in the Strategy for Sport, cross departmental interests, Defra’s 25 year plan on getting people into contact with nature, agreements in principal with other organisations, cutting red tape, economic value and links to education.  The main action to come from the meeting was to write a concise briefing which other members could be asked to support.  I am grateful to Hannah Dobbin of the S&RA for assistance with the format of this brief which was duly prepared and supported by the S&RA, OIA, BMC, British Canoeing, British Orienteering and the Land Access and Recreation Association, together with three regional caving councils/associations.  This letter was recently sent out to Defra, so far without reply.  It is unlikely to change Defra’s position but it does demonstrate that we have wider support.  Once we have a reply the S&RA have offered to continue to advise and assist us with our campaign. 
I also had a short meeting with the S&RA media person who offered BCA advice and media facilities in London if required.  My whole experience of the S&RA has been a positive one and I would urge Council to consider them if advice is required for other issues.  I made some good contacts with other outdoor organisations which I expect will be valuable in the future.  The S&RA send Damian, as secretary, regular information and updates, in addition they have now included me on their access consultation network.

3.   DEFRA

I have a number of overlapping correspondences going on with Defra (and NE).  Some have been direct to Rory Stewart (parliamentary under-secretary), others to the department address and some via email with Richard Hepburn (who our chairman met with in 2014).  It is worth recording that Defra, “fully recognises that there are many benefits to those who participate in caving and from the benefits that may occur from those activities to the local economy”.   
Defra have been willing to discuss some detail but it is clear from all this correspondence that they are broadly sticking to their original view.  That view is repeated in a recent letter;

“Although the Department does not agree that section 2(1) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 should be interpreted as providing a right of access to caves, this view cannot be considered definitive and only the courts can provide a definitive interpretation of legislation.”

Of course, Natural England and Defra have already stated that the CRoW Act applies to open caves and potholes, “a cave on a hill that faces out into the open air”, is covered by CRoW but, “the question in each case would then be how far inside a cave of this type, if it were deep, a member of the public would have to go before the rights ceased to apply because use no longer amounted to open-air recreation.”
A BCA motion asked to seek clarification from Defra and NE on access under CRoW.  I fear that the answer is that there is no clarification.  Defra agree that their view is not definitive and therefore one can conclude that the CRoW Act may already apply to caving or it may not.  With the majority of members supporting the BCA on CRoW, but with a vocal minority opposed, I look forward to Council instructing me how I may take this clarification further.  I would offer to seek advice and report back to council.

4.   Parliamentary Questions

In the course of my efforts on behalf of BCA it has become clear that there is a faction actively campaigning against the majority view.  I have seen a number of individuals and groups referred in correspondence who place a different view to various authorities.  This is not for me to comment on but I would like to draw council’s attention to two parliamentary questions which have been asked recently.

From Charlotte Leslie MP (Bristol North West)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Caves: Access
21470
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of legal provision relating to rights to grant or withhold access to caves.
A
Answered by: Rory Stewart
Answered on: 12 January 2016
Defra has made no assessment of the effectiveness of legal provision relating to rights to grant or withhold access to caves. Cavers may use particular cave systems, where use has been traditional, or where the landowner allows or has given specific permission for cavers to do so.

Caves: Written question - 31768
Q
Asked by James Heappey (Wells)
Asked on: 18 March 2016
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Caves
Commons
31768
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, what her policy is on the extension of the definition of mapped open countryside to caves.
 
A
Answered by: George Eustice
Answered on: 29 March 2016
Section 2(1) of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 provides for a right of access on foot for the purposes of open-air recreation to land which has been mapped as open country (mountain, moor, heath and down) and registered common land.
The Government has no plans to extend the definition of mapped land under that Act to apply to caves.

5.   Landowners

Until now it has been difficult to formally gather individual landowners views on CRoW and caver access.  As an officer of the national body it may have been construed as interfering with local affairs.  In previous reports to C&A I understand that CNCC, DCA and CCC have all suggested some support or general ambivalence from landowners in their regions.  Recently I have been co-opted as an access representative of the Council of Northern Caving Clubs and this has at least made things easier in my own area.
I have already reported on the LAFs, both by personal visit, and through third party approaches as described.  It is a statutory requirement that LAF members consist of one third landowners.  The local LAFs that I have personally visited have offered support for the CRoW caving position.  Third parties have echoed similar sentiments from further afield.
This week I spoke with a senior officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  I asked directly if the caving campaign on CRoW would cause any detrimental landowner reaction, now or in the future.  He convinced me that it would not, and certainly not as a landowner themselves.  If any problems or real concerns did appear he felt that they had the proven statutory controls to mitigate them. (refer to ABIS below)
I have had had some preliminary meetings with a number of major Dales landowners ahead of further meetings next month.  The aim is to discover any concerns that they may have and see what can be done to allay those fears.  It is hoped that this may lead to an improvement in cave access in the short term.  Naturally I have no intention of treating landowners with anything other than respect and courtesy. I shall report the outcome at a future council meeting.
There is a landowner survey conducted by the YD National Park on ‘attitudes to public access’.  150 landowners are surveyed who hold a broad spread of different sized landholdings.  The conclusions show that landowners are generally happy with increasing the ease of public access and upgrading or creating new rights of way.  The four largest concerns that arise due to public access are; gates left open, straying from paths, climbing over walls and dogs worrying stock.  There are no reported concerns over caving in any of the surveys.
I have spoken with groups and individuals representing a wide spectrum of the outdoors.  My impression is that after ten years, the CRoW Act is well accepted by the majority of landowners.  If it is confirmed as applying to caving this will have little effect on caver/landowner relations.  We should remember that caver/landowner relations are not perfect now, nor have been in the past and there will no doubt be some difficulties in the future, CRoW, or no CRoW.

6.   Association of British and Irish Show Caves (ABIS)

Council may be aware that a letter was published in Descent magazine from the ABIS.  This letter or variations of it have been sent to Defra, Natural England, National Park Authorities and BCA.  The letter makes clear that the ABIS strongly disapprove of the BCA campaign for CRoW to apply to caving.
I was approached in January by a member of the ABIS asking me if I could supply some information on how CRoW might apply to show caves ahead of their meeting to be held in February.  They had concerns that if CRoW applied to caving it may affect their commercial businesses.  Bob Mehew drafted a technical analysis which demonstrated very clearly that the CRoW Act would not permit any form of access to show caves.  I sent this to them in good time with a supporting letter summarising the facts and suggested that improvements in access were rooted in a desire to promote caving and participation, and that a greater interest in caves could only benefit those who operate commercial cave related businesses. 
Regardless they sent out their letter before any further correspondence.  It would appear that those in charge at Dan Yr Ogof and Ingleborough Caves hold the most concerns.  Both have recently complained about digging (one formally to the NP which could have resulted in legal actions) and there have been historical problems reported in both areas with cavers.  Other concerns seem to be based of caving outside of a club structure, criminal activity, safety to the public and conservation.  I would record several points;

•   CRoW only applies to recreational caving.  Digging is not permited.  Permission for digs will still require landowner/SSSI consent regardless of the CRoW Act
•   The CRoW Act only applies to England and Wales.  A third of the ABIS membership is based in Ireland.
•   The ABIS offer no supporting evidence to suggest that their commercial cave attraction businesses will be affected.
•   It is up to the BCA to determine access policy for recreational caving.
•   Show cave attractions have well documented conservation issues that are best dealt with by their owners.  The BCA , through its membership, are in the best position to advise, monitor and educate on conservation matters arising from recreational caving.
•   The ABIS and BCA should foster good relationships for mutual benefit.

Ashford Price of Dan Yr Ogof Show Cave has suggested a meeting to discuss the issue and the BCA chairman has agreed to attend.  It is obvious that there are other frustrations behind this letter and it is a great shame that he did not call this meeting prior to sending out the ABIS letter.

7.   Ogof Draenen/Drws Cefn and Judicial Review

As mentioned in my last report Judicial Review is the civil right of any individual or NGO in this country.  It challenges whether the correct procedures have been followed when an authority makes a decision.  It does not necessarily decide whether that decision was correct or not.  It is of interest to the BCA because any JR concerning cave entrances and CRoW land may indicate whether the CRoW Act does apply to caving or not. 
Individual cavers have now sent a Pre Action Protocol letter to Natural Resources Wales over attempts to stop up the Drws Cefn entrance.  This is effectively a letter before action and has been made public.  I will continue to monitor the situation but, as I stated in my last report, I am not sure that a decision has yet been taken which can be challenged by Judicial Review.
BCA needs to be aware that with the present uncertainty over the application of CRoW to caving this process could be used elsewhere in the country should access disputes get out of hand.  It is unlikely that a Judicial Review on its own will settle the matter.  For the matter to be settled, as Defra have suggested, it may have to be that a court will need to make a declaration on the correct interpretation of the law.  Whether this should be led by individual cavers or the association is a topic for debate.

8.   Advice to Access Controlling Bodies (ACB) on CRoW and relates aspects.

This refers to action 160.  I have made several drafts of this advice and it has been presented to the C&A committee for comment.  It includes advice on Section 26 restriction drafted by Bob Mehew.  I believe the advice is ready to go.
The advice did claim a supplementary note on the BCA PLI for landowners.  It was felt that this should be clarified and agreed with the insurers, Perkin Slade.  Therefore, last week, a WebX meeting was held between Nick Williams, Perkin Slade and myself.  Following the discussion it was agreed that Nick would draft the advice, have it agreed and we would include it with the other advice.
As I understood the discussion there were two points of interest.  There appeared to be no reason to restrict access from an insurance point of view alone, and ACBs may need to do more work to fulfil insurance requirements in the future.  No doubt there is more to discuss here once the advice is made clear.

9.   Publicity and the media

As mentioned at the last meeting I was approached by the Yorkshire Post magazine to do a feature article.  Rather than focussing on access issues I took the editor around the Dales to various local businesses to demonstrate the value of caving to the rural community.  This worked well and they put a great cave photograph on the front page.
At Easter I was contacted by a reporter from the Guardian Newspaper.  It was obvious that she had already spoken to cavers but wanted the BCA perspective.  I answered the questions and followed that up by sending in a briefing on the BCA position which had been seen by several council members.
The Guardian article caused other media interest, most of which I couldn’t do.  I gave an interview to Sam Walker on Radio 5 Live where I also tried to get over the attraction of caving.  I have also done a studio piece on BBC Look North where the presenter, Harry Grayson, gave me a tough grilling from the landowner perspective which was a good opportunity to show our respect and demonstrate the benefits to landowners.
All the media interest has come to me either from the BCA web site address or via the media liaison.

10.   Related government interest in the outdoors

I reported before briefly on the Governments Strategy for Sport which had a new focus on outdoor recreation.  Recently Defra has announced an 8 point plan for National Parks.  One of these is to realise the immense potential for outdoor recreation.  One could consider that the BCA campaign would tick all these boxes.

11.   Proposal on spending

This refers to action 169.  I have incurred some expenses, mostly travel, but also the LAF banner.  I refer council to the Treasurers report to decide on a further budget.

12.   Other
This refers to action 172.  I would prefer not to follow this up at the moment.

I apologise for the length of this report but much has happened since the last meeting.  In the name of transparency I think it is important for council and the membership to know what has been going on in their name.
Tim Allen
5th April 2016


Offline badger

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2016, 11:00:50 pm »
tim a comprehensive round up for everyone on both sides to view, I fear though like all other crow issues it will get into the normal agonistic comments from the non crow side and aggressive response of those in favour, instead of everyone looking at the open way its being handled by yourself. and supporting at least the fact your not hiding good or bad opinions, and conducting yourself in a professional manner :thumbsup:

Offline cavemanmike

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2016, 11:19:50 pm »
thank you tim  :clap2: :clap2:
put together in a clear no nonsense manner  :thumbsup:

Online Ian Adams

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2016, 11:38:06 pm »
Keep up the brilliant representation  :)

Ian
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Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2016, 01:10:40 am »
Tim, a most comprehensive report. And very well supported by a lot of hard work by yourself as well. Well done.

Robin

Online Pegasus

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2016, 08:59:57 am »
For an eloquent and polite response to Tim's report, check out UKC's twitter page - click the bird, top right....

Offline David Rose

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2016, 09:39:27 am »
Thank you Tim for what is evidently a great deal of hard work, and for conducting such a measured and well-argued campaign. We all owe you deep gratitude, and I am delighted the BCA has continued to give you support.

Offline zomjon

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2016, 09:44:00 am »
It is very disappointing to read such a response on Twitter, it comes through as very sad and bitter, and definitely not the response from someone who wants to be taken seriously in this debate.
Can I echo everyone's appreciation of Tim's hard work and the thoroughness and honesty of his report to Council.

Offline bograt

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2016, 01:39:15 pm »
A fine and detailed report on progress, thanks Tim, you are doing a grand job  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:.

I note the two MP's who have asked badly informed questions in the house are both from Mendip area ----.

Also note that the anti lobby have reverted to an intelligent, erudite and well considered Twitter campaign, this should stand them well in the credibility stakes ---!! - ( scraping the bottom of the barrel ??)  ::) ::)
Aim low, achieve your goals, avoid disappointment

Offline Peter Burgess

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2016, 02:09:40 pm »
I don't do Twitter. Perhaps I should.

Offline jasonbirder

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2016, 04:26:08 pm »
Quote
click the bird, top right....

What bird? No Twitter Icon I can see?

Offline Madness

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2016, 04:41:50 pm »
The Twitter comments are rude, disrespectful and out of order.

Excellent report Tim. Keep up the good (and hard) work.

Offline molerat

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2016, 04:54:31 pm »
What bird? No Twitter Icon I can see?

I think the discussion is relating to this post and the comment beneath it.

(The twitter logo is next to the facebook logo at the top of the page, to the right of the 'Home...Logout' bar.)

Offline badger

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2016, 05:02:15 pm »
it is sad to see on twitter a very personal attack on Tim, especially as he is doing what has been asked of him from BCA. Fortunately Tim must have big shoulders as he has conducted himself above this personal attack
and whether cavers agree or disagree with Crow or in that matter anything else we should keep things factual and not fall to these depths of personal insults

Offline paul

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2016, 05:03:53 pm »


it is sad to see on twitter a very personal attack on Tim, especially as he is doing what has been asked of him from BCA. Fortunately Tim must have big shoulders as he has conducted himself above this personal attack
and whether cavers agree or disagree with Crow or in that matter anything else we should keep things factual and not fall to these depths of personal insults

Well said.
I'm not a complete idiot: some parts are missing!

Offline Jenny P

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2016, 05:11:43 pm »
Firstly, many thanks to Tim for his extremely comprehensive report to the BCA Council meeting yesterday.  He has done an immense amount of hard work and, sadly, has had to take more than his fair share of flack - particularly the really rather obnoxious Twitter comments just posted by one who might have been thought to choose his words more carefully.

The BCA Council meeting did discuss the topic at length - some 3 hours in fact - but it was a sensible discussion and I feel we did move forward, despite very strong views on both sides of the CRoW debate.

BCA is making an effort to ensure that, in addition to making efforts to try to improve access for cavers through clarifying the CRoW issue, it also puts real effort into trying to improve cavers' understanding of conservation issues.  The new information to be put out on conservation will be aimed at BCA clubs, BCA individual cavers and also to non-aligned cavers who maybe aren't quite as savvy as we hope the rest of us are.

Cave conservation in the UK is improving, despite the doom-and-gloom merchants.  Barnes Loop in Swildons had already been pretty well trashed when I first saw it in 1960 and the spent flash bulbs and sweet papers littering Easter Grotto in the 1960's were a disgrace.  Even gates, restricted access and taping didn't save the Trident in OFD, which had the tip knocked off by some fool who crossed the tape some years ago.  However, other areas in OFD have fared better and taping has protected fragile areas that might not even have been noticed before they were damaged.

Education AND better access is what we should all be after.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #17 on: April 10, 2016, 05:21:45 pm »
Hear hear Jenny.

I think it's fair to say that "education AND better access" has been the consensus at all recent CNCC meetings and the CNCC have been unanimously in favour of CRoW.

Offline badger

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2016, 05:52:34 pm »
well said Jenny,

Offline badger

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2016, 05:54:29 pm »
"Firstly, many thanks to Tim for his extremely comprehensive report to the BCA Council meeting yesterday.  He has done an immense amount of hard work and, sadly, has had to take more than his fair share of flack - particularly the really rather obnoxious Twitter comments just posted by one who might have been thought to choose his words more carefully."

couldn't agree more,

Offline Peter Burgess

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2016, 08:03:16 pm »
What bird? No Twitter Icon I can see?

I think the discussion is relating to this post and the comment beneath it.

(The twitter logo is next to the facebook logo at the top of the page, to the right of the 'Home...Logout' bar.)
Thanks for the link. It's not language I would have personally used. I have had far worse thrown at me on this site and elsewhere. Not many came to my defence on those occasions, and to be honest I didn't expect anybody to. We need Superman (sorry, Supercrow) to sort it all out so we all live in peace and harmony and don't piss each other off. Or perhaps we should all accept that manners go out of the window on occasion.

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2016, 08:24:24 pm »
It is a prerequisite for access to have received conservation education beforehand in certain parts of Spain (I imagine this is also the case elsewhere such as Belgium for example). Perhaps if access is improved, it should be after a prior conservation induction - the simplest induction being signs at cave entrances pointing out behaviour which should be obvious, but which clearly is not in some instances.

Education AND better access is what we should all be after.

Agreed. But the latter should be the prize for completing the former.

Online MarkS

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2016, 10:34:38 pm »
I'd also like to echo the thanks above, both to Tim and to the BCA, for dealing with this tricky issue so thoroughly, transparently, and efficiently.  :thumbsup:

Offline fredthedog

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2016, 12:07:26 am »
( scraping the bottom of the barrel ??)  ::) ::)

No, that's taking an icon (or one very like it) that someone on here used to use and adding a Hitler moustache. I call Godwin's Law. Especially when the person concerned has no ability to defend themselves on here any more.

Please, feel free to call me Fred. Let's all play like nice puppies.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: BCA Meeting CRoW Report
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2016, 06:43:00 am »
( scraping the bottom of the barrel ??)  ::) ::)

No, that's taking an icon (or one very like it) that someone on here used to use and adding a Hitler moustache. I call Godwin's Law. Especially when the person concerned has no ability to defend themselves on here any more.

You don't for a second think he brought that on himself with his shenanigans?

Yes, it's harsh, and probably the sentiment is one that *many* on here will agree with. The problem is, I don't know many famous control freaks that didn't commit atrocities that could be used in place of it... any suggestions?
Permission? Wassat den?