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Natural England confirms HLS and motor sport are compatible

The Motor Sports Association (MSA) has welcomed confirmation from Natural England that farmland subject to Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements can still be used for motor sport events.

Following extensive dialogue with the Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA), of which the MSA is a founding member, officials from Natural England have written to explain that HLS payments does not equate to a ‘blanket ban on activities across the farm’.

An example given was that ‘if a farm were receiving funding for grass buffers around the edges of arable fields, any activity on the arable part would usually be acceptable. Indeed if this activity were to spill over on to the buffer this may also be acceptable provided no damage were to occur’.

In clarifying that ‘land they are receiving money for should not be damaged or compromised by non-farming activities’, Natural England highlighted that the Olympic Mountain Bike circuit was constructed on HLS agreement land thanks to ‘a plan to guide the public away from sensitive habitats.’

Natural England also clarified that if a farm contained a sensitive area for rare wildlife, the HLS agreement could prevent a motor sport event from being run within a disruptive distance, but that if the event was already active before the agreement was signed then it should be part of the negotiations and declared by the potential agreement holder.

Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive, said: “This is welcome news, which clarifies that Higher Level Stewardship agreements do not constitute a ban on motor sport on participating farmland, and also that each agreement has its own specific aims. A number of events and clubs have already suffered from the confusion arising from this issue and this clarification will assist many in their discussions with land owners. Motor sport takes its environmental and ecological responsibility very seriously and we are grateful for LARA’s excellent work on this important issue for the benefit of motor sport clubs and events across the country.”

31 January 2013