The National Trust owns and looks after large parts of upland and coastal Wales, much of which is of great value and importance for recreational activites, including climbing and mountaineering. Many outdoor providers were very concerned at the possibility of the National Trust introducing its " Ambassador Business Scheme", that could have seen licensing and charges being introduced for providers on National Trust land.
In response to the concerns of providers of outdoor recreation activities, Elfyn Jones, the BMC's Access & Conservation Officer for Wales met with the National Trust to discuss the proposals for the Ambassador Business Scheme. The outcomes of the meeting were very encouraging and reassuring.
The Ambassador Business Scheme was introduced by the National Trust in the South West of England as a guide to its local mangers to help them work more effectively with activity providers. This has raised much concern among activity providers, especially among those providers of traditional outdoor activities in areas such as Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire. Aimed at NT Property Managers, the original document contained phrases such as "It is recommended that exclusivity be offered (to a single provider) as part of an ambassador scheme" and "Financially a licence agreement of this nature can be very rewarding".
With very many local authority and other traditional outdoor centres depending on access to NT land for their activities, mainly for teaching and instructional purposes (inc. teaching about environmental and NT issues), it's understandable that activity providers were extremely concerned at the possibility of this scheme being rolled out in Wales.
There is little doubt that the NT do a great job of protecting and conserving some of the landscapes that we as climbers and hill-walkers value the most - and that this comes at a very high price. Conservation and land management is not cheap, and the NT as a charity is feeling the strain of the financial down-turn as much as everyone else. However recent statements from senior NT staff and directors at a recent seminar suggested that local managers had "To make outdoor properties pay to provide income streams to pay for conservation; outdoor activities were an underdeveloped area that provided new financial opportunities" set alarm bells ringing among activity providers.
But in Wales at any rate, the BMC got very strong reassurances (from the NT's Head of Land Management and Conservation in Wales), that the organisation has no intention of using the Ambassador Scheme in its current form, and that there are no plans whatsoever to start licencing or charging for traditional outdoor activities on its open space lands in Wales. They were very open and clear that they would like to work more closely with all outdoor recreation bodies to look at improving the relationships and understanding between the organisation and outdoor providers. This very much mirrors the response that that South Wales Outdoor Providers Group received in discussions with NT managers on Gower.
The BMC view is that it does not support any type of sole use or exclusive arrangements for access to outdoor sites and in particular opposes any attempts to charge directly for access to natural outdoor facilities, and is very reassured to receive such a positive response from the NT in Wales.
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