Rallying in the forests of Wales could be under threat following a potential rise in fee’s that would see events charged double the current fee per mile.
Whilst deals have been agreed for England and Scotland, the Motorsport Association (MSA) has said talks are continuing in Wales however the new and increased costs currently sought by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) would be ‘unworkable’.
“Unfortunately, we have yet to reach agreement with NRW, which is currently seeking an increase that would be unworkable for rallying in Wales and thereby detrimental to the country’s hugely successful motor sport industry and also to the many local communities that benefit from the sport.” Said MSA Cheif Executive Rob Jones.
“However, we continue to work hard on behalf of the sport in Wales and with discussions continuing we remain confident of reaching agreement with NRW as soon as possible.”
With last year’s fees currently in place until the end of May 2016, NRW has said it had to recover it’s costs of preparing and repairing forests.
“We have a long and proud history of staging rallying events in Welsh forests and are working closely with the Motor Sports Association to reach an agreement that will allow this to continue.” Added NRW head of enterprise, David Edwell. “It is, however, important that the costs we incur in preparing the forests for these events and repairing the roads afterwards are recovered so we can deliver the wide range of other services these areas provide to the people of Wales.”
FIA World Rally Championship-event winner and Motorsport retailer dealer Nicky Grist took to Twitter to express his concerns, saying: “The revenues generated for rural Wales business is around 16 million from just rallies. The effect will be dramatic!!!”
Following negotiations with Forestry Commission England and Forestry Commission Scotland, the fees for providing access to the Forestry Estate for MSA-permitted rally events in England and Scotland until 31 December 2016 have risen by 0.7 % in-line with the Retail Price Index (RPI). The rates per mile in England and Scotland for 2016, for Special Stage Rallies (Tyres Restricted & including Multi-Use and Historic Special Stage Rallies) is priced at £688.00 per mile in primary usage with the fee reduced to £408.00 per mile for a second usage.
Speaking to Racingist, double British Rally Champion, David Llewellin said: “The move to increase fee’s could be terrible news for Welsh rallying. With the already high cost of forest rallying now, I think it will have devastating effect.”
The current situation:
According to a statement on the NRW website, it reads: “In early 2014, it became apparent that there was a significant discrepancy in the amount it cost NRW to prepare and reinstate its forest roads for rallying and the fees paid by the MSA.
“This meant that in 2015 the MSA paid NRW £339.000 in stage rally charges, including their flagship event Wales Rally GB, but the actual cost to reinstate the roads used for rallying was £655,000.
“The latest Master Agreement for stage rally charges expired in 2015, but we agreed to hold the existing charge until May 2016 at MSA’s request, to provide further opportunities for discussion.
“While NRW recognises that any increase in charges would impact on the sport, as a publicly funded body we have a duty to ensure the public purse is properly recompensed for costs incurred in preparing and reinstating those parts of our forests used in rallying events.”