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Snowdonia-Active News Item

Everlasting Delight... at a Price 24/11/2011

Thanks to donations the National Trust recently purchased Llyndy Isaf Farm, including Llyn Dinas, for £1 million so that:
"Future generations shall also enjoy it free from the threat of commercial development."

In contrast, a recent 'internal advisory document' from the Trust raises concerns that outdoor activity providers and education centres may find themselves paying to use an amenity like the lake in the future, if a suggested new proposal was implemented.

Ambassador Business Scheme

The document titled 'The Ambassador Business Scheme' proposes:

"A new way of working with activity providers who use National Trust property to promote and operate their businesses."

It also recommends using 'paid for' licenses and entering into exclusivity agreements with chosen providers.

License to Use

Written from an overtly commercial perspective and heavily cloaked in business-jargon such as 'affinity marketing' and 'low work, medium return', the document suggests:

"In addition to a licence fee a payback scheme can be added."

Is is doubtful that this is what one of its founders, Octavia Hill, had in mind when she wrote about the Trust looking after beautiful places:

"...for the everlasting delight of the people" - for everyone, rich and poor, city and country dweller, young and old."

Activity companies would be required to provide the Trust with standard operating procedures, a list of equipment, staff qualifications and emergency action plans.

Although the case studies cited refer to Trust properties in Cornwall, the document provides a blueprint for wider intentions of the Trust to provide "a higher level of outdoor property offer."

Catastrophic Effect

The Head of Newgale YMCA Outdoor Education Centre, Denise Marriott, has written to the Trust expressing her concerns:

"The Ambassador Business Scheme, should it be implemented, sets to undo all of the hard work and years of harmonious provision that has gone on in our county [Pembrokeshire]. The issue of exclusive licences would have a catastrophic effect not only in Pembrokeshire but to outdoor providers across the whole of South Wales and who knows how much more of the U.K. in the future."

"Are these licences not heavily geared towards the Trust's self promotion and financial gain through their conditions, such as: activity providers spending time with the Rangers on the ground and volunteer with them for at least one day, sign up to using the brand to promote the Trust on all marketing materials, websites, vehicles and equipment including helmets, paddles, boats and rash vests. They must also provide the Trust with at least two free activity sessions per year and run events in conjunction with the Trust that the property advertises."

Denise sees the scheme as contradictory to the Trust's own 'Vision for Learning' and a serious threat to educating future generations. Without access to these wild places the scheme would undermine the viability of some outdoor centres, particularly in the current financial climate.

Collaborative Working

Commenting on the Ambassador Business Scheme, Jonathan Hughes, National Trust SW Wales region, said:

"The National Trust is keen to work more closely with outdoor activity providers in Wales, helping people share the wonders of the natural world. We have been considering how we might work collaboratively with the outdoor sector, ensuring that groups get the best possible experience from the spectacular coast and countryside in the Trust's care in Wales. The nature of any relationship will reflect the type of business and the character of the site. One model that was considered was the Ambassador Business Scheme which is being piloted in England. Whilst the scheme has some positive aspects, it is definitely not our intention to roll it out to all providers across Wales."

"The Trust would hope that this is the start of a positive ongoing dialogue with providers of outdoor activities, and looks forward to developing mutually beneficial relationships that help people get outdoors and closer to nature."

Complete Lack of Understanding

Chris Wright, CEO of Snowdonia-Active, said:

"It is great to hear that the Trust is looking to work more closely with the outdoor sector in Wales. However, the approach detailed in their Ambassador Business Scheme demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how the outdoor sector works here. It has lord of the manor overtones with a clear intent to extract value from the assets they hold in trust, rather than a collaborative approach to making sustainable use of the landscapes and seascapes of Wales. The Trust are huge landowners in Wales, much of it mountain, moorland and coast, hard fought access to which is vital for the outdoor sector."

Tom Luddington from Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter, an organisation set up to minimise the environmental impact of adventure activities, said:

"This management approach could set an unwelcome precedent that would prove divisive among activity providers and threaten the partnership working we've established in this region. When I discussed it with the Trust they did however stress that it is just one of many management models currently being considered for properties on the Gower and SW Wales."

"Although this management approach isn't widespread at present, and hasn't yet been adopted in Pembrokeshire, I'm aware that it already happens on a stretch of coast in Dorset and on the Lizard Peninsula. Owing to the overwhelming popularity of coasteering at the Blue Lagoon, Abereiddy, a National Trust property, a booking system for groups has been agreed on here to prevent overcrowding and limit impacts on wildlife, but it isn't exclusive. I can imagine that if the NT offered exclusive licences to individual businesses at popular climbing venues such as Porthclais, there'd be an uproar."

Download Ambassador Business Scheme document†here.

Topic: National Trust, Access to Countryside, Ambassador Business Scheme.

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