Rally4Wales proposes a sustainable future plan for rallying in Wales.

Rally4Wales proposes a sustainable future plan for rallying in Wales.

The #Rally4Wales campaign group (R4W) has submitted a detailed outline proposal to the Motor Sports Association (MSA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and key political figures in the Welsh Assembly Government. The proposal has been created in order to bring factual, evidence based solutions to the current impasse between the MSA and Natural Resources Wales.

With NRW seeking a 93% increase in fees from June 2016 onwards – R4W believes that a new solution should be developed with the relevant parties in order to provide a more sustainable future for the sport. This 93% increase is wholly unsustainable and would virtually eliminate rallying in Wales overnight – losing a £15 million industry in the process.  This is an unacceptable position for Wales.

R4W have submitted a 12 page outline proposal for a new not for profit commercial enterprise set up to manage the preparation and repair of forestry roads for rallying use. Based on hard factual evidence gained from forestry and road preparation specialists, the proposal centres on utilising a skilled contract operations team to manage, develop and repair the roads for future rallying requirements. The proposed delivery team has their own specialist plant equipment and supply chain in place already to be able to complete the works.

An extensive reverse engineering and data analysis project has also been completed by Rally4Wales in recent weeks to analyse the special stages used across Wales over the past two years.  This project looked at routes used, stage mileages run and single/double usage analysis to identify true cost breakdowns.  This has further helped shape the proposal as it is purely fact and evidence based.

A vital part of the proposal is a strong emphasis on social value and community benefit for rural Wales. R4W recognises that NRW needs to be shown to acting responsibly not only as a business, but also in how it provides social value from its own business operations in the country it serves.

R4W are proposing that work based training and direct work experience opportunities will be made available to young people in the rural areas where the works are undertaken, potentially leading to future employment. These would be completed in partnership with local colleges with a strong emphasis on civil engineering courses and student development through practical works.

R4W also want to see NRW encouraged to ensure a range of alternative route options are open to rally organisers for the longer term, and that sustainable usage of the roads for rallying is at the forefront of discussions.  The proposal is geared towards improving the roads for NRW – at zero cost to them for the longer term.

As a campaign group representing competitors and the wider rallying community, it is in everyone’s interest to improve the quality of the roads being used to encourage more involvement in the sport.  Better roads equals happier competitors. Happier competitors will encourage more participation, leading to more competitors being involved.  Currently, the very opposite is happening – largely due to poor quality stage conditions on a repeated basis.  This is of great concern to Rally4Wales.

R4W also recognise that there are a number of factors that contribute to road damage – ranging from forestry operations, poor weather, poor drainage, and overuse of rally stages in short timeframes.  Again, the proposal has been written to propose better stewardship of the roads to ensure the very best possible stage conditions for competitors and organisers for the longer term.

Jamie Edwards, Campaign Co-ordinator for R4W: 

“We fully believe that the clear business model now presented to all parties is a well-researched, factual and sustainable basis to solving this ongoing situation. As experienced contract negotiators in our own right, we are equally confident that the proposal would meet with the requirement of Natural Resources Wales to eliminate the cost from the public purse that they have highlighted in their own figures recently.  It is our understanding that this is a major stumbling block in the negotiations and that zero expenditure should come from the public purse to subsidise the sport.

This new model can provide Natural Resources Wales with a cost saving of £300,000 per year (nearly £1 Million over a 3 year period which R4W would request) and also improves the social value that rallying brings to their forestry operations for the longer term through community benefits. Essential to this is that the quality of road preparation and repair would also increase – which is vital to rallying competitors who are disillusioned with current stage conditions due to patching or poor repairs.

Overall, we firmly believe that the R4W proposal provides a clear and sustainable pathway for the sport of forest rallying to continue and prosper in its spiritual home here in Wales.  It should give both the MSA and rally organiser’s confidence that the single most critical factor in any forest stage event – road quality – would be professionally and carefully managed to a clearly defined, audited and quantified standard. By having this defined standard in place, it should also give NRW confidence that their estate is being carefully and professionally developed at no direct cost to themselves.”

Historically, change has not always been well received by the rallying community. There has been a long history of sticking to old ways and old habits. Rally4Wales passionately believe that the MSA and NRW now have a great opportunity to form a new, modern contractual relationship that can safeguard the future of the sport for the longer term. With a positive reaction received to the proposal from leading political figures in Wales, the time has come for all parties to take positive and direct action to save our sport – and soon.

What is #Rally4Wales about?

Background:

You may be aware that the MSA and Natural Resources Wales are currently unable to agree on new forestry charges (rate per mile) for the provision of special stage forest rallies in Wales.
Currently, the existing deal expires early in June 2016 following a brief extension period. After this point, there is no agreement in place which means that the future of forest rallying in Wales is unclear.

What does Natural Resources Wales want?

In short, they have told the MSA that they want to double the cost to use forest roads for rallying in Wales from June 2016. They have taken this stance as they believe that they have been massively undercharging for road repairs for ‘many years’. This new claim has been met with scepticism by the rallying community who have seen the standard of road repairs diminish in the last couple of years. Yet according to Natural Resources Wales, there is a £300,000 difference between fees received from rallying use in 2015 and what it has allegedly cost them to prepare and repair the roads for rallying in that period. Could they really have spent over £650,000 on road repairs in one year? ‪#‎Rally4Wales‬ finds this claim hard to believe without clear evidence.

Isn’t this just an issue for Wales?

No. The Forestry Commission in England and Scotland have renewed their contracts with the MSA for gravel rallying use for another year and increased their charges from 2015 rates by 0.7%. This is totally at odds with what NRW are claiming in Wales. Can it be the case that the FC in England and Scotland have also been hugely undercharging for repair work for years and are still prepared to do so for another year? Surely not?

The greater concern is that if Natural Resources Wales do not change their position – it could spell the end for forest rallying in Wales due to excessive costs. Crucially, if they ‘get away’ with that cost increase – then it sets a dangerous precedent for the FC in England and Scotland to follow suit should they wish to do so.

It’s important to note that rallying is worth £15 million a year to the Welsh economy based on MSA research. It play’s a huge part in the Welsh tourism industry, supporting rural Welsh businesses.

What is #Rally4Wales?

#Rally4Wales is a lobby group. The aim is to apply political pressure and question the stance taken by Natural Resources Wales – who as yet have not provided any breakdown on how they justify their cost claims. #Rally4Wales is to petition the Welsh Assembly Government to query why NRW’s cost calculations are so wildly different to their counterparts in England and Scotland.

What you can do to help?

It’s difficult for the MSA to lobby the Welsh Government on this issue whilst they remain in negotiation with NRW. However, #Rally4Wales has been set up independently from the MSA to voice the concern of the wider rally and tourism community. Wales has a range of Assembly Members and MP’s operating within the country.

We’re asking all our friends in the rally and tourism communities to raise awareness of the campaign by emailing, tweeting, Facebooking and generally making people aware of how important rallying is to the Welsh economy.

Diolch/Thank you for your support. We must act quickly. The threat to our sport is real, and now.

Our official Twitter page is @officialR4W and our Facebook group is at http://www.facebook.com/rallyingmeansbusiness