Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by British Water Ski (PPG 09)

  On behalf of British Water Ski I would like to take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Sub-committee two items of concern to us.

  The first is the role of the Sports Council (Sport England) in the planning process. If a planning application is received by a local planning authority for a sport or recreational facility the authority is required to consult, among others, English Nature and the Environment Agency but not the Sports Council. This is extremely unfair, as no body with a remit to promote sport is required to be consulted. Even the Environment Agency who has a remit to promote sport and recreation almost never provides comment from a sport or recreation point of view as they have insufficient staff to carry out these duties.

  We are concerned that the revised PPG 17 will make it more difficult to gain planning permission for sport and recreation. We would therefore like to see the Sports Council made a statutory consultee for all planning applications that involve sport or recreation.

  Our second item is our concern about the implementation of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) by English Nature (EN). We are currently experiencing one example which is of great concern to us.

  A water ski club in Hampshire, established in 1982, has come under threat because of the Act. Wessex Water Authority who owns the Lake applied to the New Forest District Council for renewal of the temporary planning permission in early 2000. The Club has also been working with the Water Authority and the District Council to relocate to a new site in about two or three years' time. The lake is an SSSI, designated in 1994 (12 years after the formation of the Club) and the area is also a Special Protection Area (SPA). Ivy Lake Water Ski Club is a small club operating only one boat during the summer months but providing a centre for water skiing for the disabled in the south west.

  The District Council were mindful to approve the application and were happy for water skiing to continue on the Lake. EN commented on the planning application and this delayed the decision. After the introduction of the CROW Act, EN objected to the application and the District Council were therefore no longer able to approve the application without the consent of EN. The Club was informed by EN at a meeting in April 2001 that if they continued skiing on the Lake they would be committing a criminal offence. Needless to say skiing stopped immediately. Since that time negotiations continued and a submission supported by Wessex Water showing how the club operated on the lake was issued to EN. After some time having heard nothing from EN the Club contacted them and obtained temporary permission to continue skiing whilst the submission is considered. We are very concerned about the future of the Club!

  We are very disappointed that EN has acted in this way. They appear to have failed to substantiate their reasons for their objections. They appear to be going against their own SSSI notification guidelines that state "in practice, English Nature is usually willing to give consent via the landowner to the existing levels of sporting use . . .". They have threatened a small club with possibly committing a criminal offence. I am also told that the EN officer in charge of the case had not visited the lake until the meeting in April 2001 and finally the Club was established long before the lake was designated a SSSI or SPA.

  We are very concerned about the situation as we have a number of affiliated clubs on SSSIs. We would very much like to have a closer relationship with EN to deal with any concerns that they may have on any of our sites. You will understand if I say these Clubs have real fears for the future.

  If there is anything that you can put into the new PPG 17 to protect Clubs who come under threat in this way we would be most grateful. I believe that the above example is evidence of the belief in many sporting bodies that most conservation bodies are too strong and have too much power and influence and that the balance needs to be addressed.

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