With Scotland following Wales in opting to keep the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority, the Health and Safety Executive have announced a ‘pause’ in plans to abolish it in England.
HSE wrote to providers licensed under AALA last week announcing their decision “to pause the proposal to abolish the AALA while we consider further how we develop a regulatory regime that reflects the level of risk of taking part in adventure activities while ensuring that users are reassured about a provider’s safety management arrangements.”
AALA was due to be abolished and replaced by a voluntary system following the UK government report Common Sense, Common Safety. Scotland’s announcement last week that it was opting to keep AALA made abolishing it in England almost untenable, leading to a u-turn.
HSE added that during last year’s consultation “the issue of inconsistency was also mentioned – some activities are licensed while other very similar activities are not." Activities not currently covered by AALA include indoor climbing, high ropes courses and all overseas activities.
Guy Jarvis, chair of the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) said: “This decision has taken us back to square one. ABC regards licensing as a good thing. It offers our users that quality assurance. It’s good value for money.”
Jarvis, who runs Undercover Rock in Bristol, said the centre already has an AALA licence because it offers outdoor-climbing courses to young people. “But gravity is the same indoors as it is outdoors,” he added. “AALA are actively helpful. When we deal with HSE we have to spend a lot of time educating them.”
John Cousins, chief executive of Mountain Training UK, said he was “concerned that after an extensive round of consultation and intensive dialogue last year with HSE they appear to have failed to come up with a deliverable outcome and that further discussion could leave the sector just as muddled.”
Cousins added MTUK was “pleased we are not facing the nonsense of a mountaineering instructor in England being unable to climb with young people in Scotland or Wales.” Northern Ireland has already chosen the Adventuremark accreditation scheme.
Last week, the BMC reported on a proposal from the UK Accreditation Transition Group (UKATG) for a register of providers holding third-party accreditation as a way to get round the inconsistency in licensing between the home nations should AALA be abolished in England. “UKATG probably still has a role and we’re likely to meet again soon to discuss the current situation,” Cousins said.
A spokeswoman for HSE said that no timetable for the new round of consultations had been set, or an anticipated finish date for a theoretical new system or an improved version of the current one.
“From the outset HSE said this was all about increasing participation and this is what we want to see,” Cousins said. “Confusion can only lead to the opposite.”
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