Inside Revolution: Finding venues for motorsport
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Much of grassroots motorsport is reliant on understanding landowners who rent out their fields, car parks or private roads or supportive local authorities who work with Clubs to benefit from the Closed Road act, which now permits the use of public highways and can open up great opportunities for fantastic public events.
Some Clubs, like North Devon MC, own and run their own venues (see Club Corner this month) while others have close partnerships with landowners that have been going for years. However, for those who are less fortunate, or who suddenly find their existing land taken away from them, securing new places to hold events can be a challenge.
The key to it all for temporary venues is the Town and Country Planning Act, 1988, which is known colloquially as the ’14/28 day rule.’ This allows land to be used for a variety of activities, on a temporary basis, without the need to apply for permission for a change-of-use. It is the legislation that allows motorcycle scrambling on farmland, trials in woodland, and it is essential to most forms of grassroots motorsport.
The rule enables Clubs to source sites more easily for many of the single venue events that are core to grassroots motorsport, such as AutoSOLOS and Autotests, Autocross and Sprints. Typical locations include car parks, stubble fields, estate or farmland roads and old Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites, but increasingly Clubs are having to think outside the box and be adaptable to source from a wider pool.
Kevin Moore, from the Association of South Western Motor Clubs (ASWMC), explains: “We use a lot of disused council car parks for AutoSOLOs and farmland for Autocrosses and we also target venues that are not used all year – for example using caravan and camping sites in winter for single venue Stage Rallies or Sprints and also Showgrounds, which usually have some clear weekends, or industrial estates, which are often empty on a Sunday.”
Forestry land has traditionally offered viable routes for off-road events such as Cross Country and Trials, with many old access roads in regular use. It is traditionally the same venues that are used year after year as most routes in and out are now already in place, but that could change according to Scottish Forestry Liaison Officer Jonathan Lord, who is working hard to open up new opportunities on the horizon.
“We have a very good relationship with the head office of Forestry Land Scotland, and we work with them both for [Stage] Rallying and Cross Country events,” explains Lord. “When they finish extracting an area of forest, the access roads remain there and after leaving it a few years for things to settle down, we might request the use of it. In general, they are okay with doing that.
“There is also now a potential opportunity with some of the wind farms. The roads around them are beautiful and would be superb for Rallying – perhaps almost too good in some cases, because some are very fast – but at the moment we have found the electricity authorities are not very happy about letting us run there, mainly because they think cars will go off the road and damage their underground cables in the recovery operation.
“In some cases, the cabling was not buried as deeply as it was supposed to be and that creates the risk. In Wales, they Rally right past wind farms and nobody ever bats an eyelid. I am having a continuing discussion with Scottish Power Renewables about this, in the hope that one year they will decide we are not such bad guys after all and let us in to rally past their wind farms.”
The closed road law opens up the option of turning public highways into motorsport venues and can be particularly suitable for events such as Sprints, Hillclimbs and Stage Rallying. After a marathon campaign by Motorsport UK spanning successive governments, this right finally came into force six years ago, and after several challenging years caused by COVID-19 Clubs are now starting to explore the opportunities.
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