Forestry England, the government agency responsible for managing and promoting the nation’s forests, has agreed a new deal that will allow rallying to take place between the trees through 2021.
An independent review was launched last year to assess whether motorsport’s impact on forest conditions was worth its widespread access.
After heavy consultation, it was announced on Thursday that motorsport’s access will continue, with new work to make the use of forest roads – which can be eroded over time – more sustainable.
Of the British Rally Championship rounds set to take place this year, only September’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire – unseen in the BRC since 2013 – makes use of English forests. Many events have been canceled already as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but single-day rallies such as the Kielder Stages and Woodpecker Stages are still set to take place and use forests as their base.
“The nation’s forests have in the past found themselves at the leading edge of motorsports in England,” said Mike Seddon, Forestry England’s chief executive.
“Our review has made it clear to me that we must take the opportunity to become leaders again.
“I’m excited for the future with the welcome support from Motorsport UK and the ACU.
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“Together, this is our chance to reduce the environmental footprint of motorsport and improve its financial support for the forests and local businesses.
“We’ll better understand what the right event in the right place looks like, the true costs and how we deal with them. Perhaps we can bring some new audiences too.
“I know first-hand the passion and support that the motorsport community has for the nation’s forests and we’ve worked together for a long time. This is a strong base from which we can, together, lead the changes necessary to secure the future of motorsports in the nation’s forests.
“Finally, thank you to everyone that took the time to give us their views: some 1700 individuals and organizations.”
Motorsport UK’s CEO Hugh Chambers, who is planning to take the UK’s World Rally Championship round away from its recent Welsh forest base and onto sealed surfaces in Northern Ireland and then Scotland, added: “For decades the nation’s forests have hosted a wide variety of motorsport, from international rallies to grassroots entry-level club events, and everything in between.
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“For so many there is a deep bond between our communities.
“I am delighted that with Forestry England we have secured a pathway that will enable us to build upon that strong cultural heritage, and also ensure that the communities in cities, towns and villages continue to benefit from the significant economic return they derive from local motorsport events.
“Our members have a deep respect for the unique nature of the forest stages and we are committed to playing our part in their preservation.
“We are fully dedicated to ensuring the long-term future of motorsport on the nation’s forestry estate through this crucial partnership.”
The use of green space has become a personal and political issue during the pandemic, with government regulations issued on how far people have been able to travel within England for recreational use of countryside areas and how frequently they are able to use them.