Author Topic: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor  (Read 956 times)

Offline David Rose

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Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« on: March 21, 2020, 11:35:23 am »
I've just sent this to BCA council members, who must vote by email whether to accept the Conservation and Access Committee's decision to challenge discrimination against caving in Wales (see the forum elsewhere for details).

 
Hello everyone,
 
As you know, voting members of the BCA council will shortly be asked to vote by email on whether to support the C&A committee’s decision to spend about £6,000 on challenging the discrimination being practised by Natural Resources Wales against caving, and their claim that it is not an outdoor sport. This is to fund a Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) letter threatening a judicial review and the seeking of an opinion from a barrister. The letter must be issued within three months of the decision being communicated to Stuart France, the CCC access officer, in other words, within the next few weeks.
 
This is it: the chance to determine once and for all whether caving does or doesn’t come within the scope of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000, and its ‘right to roam’ on mountain and moor.
 
First, it is vital to remember that the BCA membership have given council an extremely clear direction on this issue. The original poll to run a campaign was further supported by the ballot to remove impediments from the constitution which had been used to frustrate that campaign. It received a staggering level of support: 85% of clubs and 88% of individual members backed it. The mandate could hardly be stronger. Consequently, the C&A committee was tasked to draw up a BCA policy on CROW.  This was done, approved by council and further ratified by the membership at the 2018 AGM.
 
This policy states: ‘The British Caving Association holds the opinion that the CROW Act already permits access for recreational caving. The BCA will support cavers in their work to develop access to caves on CROW access land.’
 
Not ‘may’, but ‘will’. If council does not support this motion, then BCA democracy means nothing. The Welsh Government action is contrary to our policy and must be challenged.
 
I’ve been CROW campaign group convenor for the past three years. In that time, the only progress we’ve made has been cosmetic. To be sure, it was gratifying to see the BCA position adopted by the Glover Review on national parks last year. Several MPs have said supportive things. Tim Allen, Bob Mehew, Jenny Potts and others have done incredible work in preparing our case, and building alliances with other outdoors groups. But ultimately, we want results. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to get them via the political process. Caving is simply too low on the list of parliamentary priorities. The  only practical way is going to be via the legal process.
 
Ever since my sister Dinah Rose QC wrote her legal opinion, stating that caving DOES fall within the scope of the CROW Act and that parliament did not intend it to be otherwise, I have been looking out for an opportunity to put it into practice – a legal casus belli that can unite, not divide, most cavers, and offer a decent chance of success. This is by far the best opportunity we’ve had, and I urge us to take it.
 
Some may fear that by issuing the PAP letter and seeking counsel’s opinion, they are voting for an open-ended commitment that may eventually run to much more money – perhaps £50,000.  The opposite is true. The point of seeking counsel’s opinion is to determine whether we are likely to succeed. What counsel tells us will have a massive influence. No one wants to tilt at windmills. It seems to me that unless we have an estimated chance of success of something greater than 60 – 40 we should not proceed any further.
 
Moreover, the point of the PAP letter is that we may not need to proceed at all, because NRW and its allies may well at that stage fold, at least to the extent of reconsidering their current stance. But we do have to get the PAP letter out before the deadline. I suspect that because of the looming Covid-19 apocalypse, there will be no legal deadlines of any kind for a long while after that. The civil courts are going to go into a state of suspended animation. There will plenty of time to contemplate what, if anything, we should do next.
 
Nevertheless, if we don’t take this chance, it will be lost forever. We may as well end the campaign right now. I urge you all to do what the BCA membership so clearly wants – and support the C&A decision.
 
David Rose
CROW Access Campaign Convenor

Offline mch

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2020, 03:07:26 pm »
In my view, any BCA Council member who fails to vote in support of the C & A Committee's decision should seriously consider their position.

Offline Pegasus

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2020, 03:12:58 pm »
I am voting in favour  :)

Offline Pete K

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2020, 05:22:20 pm »
Bang on. Best of luck to you.

Offline Dave Tyson

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2020, 06:39:14 pm »
If this does end up with a judicial review then I think NRW will really struggle to justify their position on caving. They have never managed to give any sensible or reasoned arguments when I and other members of the Cambrian Caving Council met them (on several occasions). They basically stonewalled us and said it their decision and it was final. Given that other sports are likely to see some restrictions being eased, I think NRW and the Welsh Government would have to pull some magic out of a hat to convince a judge - and I don't think that will happen  ;D

Dave

Offline Madness

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2020, 06:39:21 pm »
In my view, any BCA Council member who fails to vote in support of the C & A Committee's decision should seriously consider their position.

Surely, any council member who does not support this is acting against BCA Policy, and therefore should be thrown off of the council.

Offline mikem

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2020, 10:28:23 pm »
Democratic organisations don't work like that.

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Statement by BCA CROW Access Group convenor
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2020, 11:38:47 pm »
I _hope_ that Council members will vote in favour, but I don't _require_ them too. I expect to be representative members to represent the bodies they represent, even if so don't like it, and elected council members should be free to use their own judgement (even if they reach the 'wrong' answer...)

 

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