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Tweet Sunday 3rd February 2019

A Message from the National Trust: Active Outdoors Providers Scheme

The National Trust - Active Outdoors Providers Scheme

At the recent Outdoor Learning Conference, the National Trust brought the results of their work on the Active Outdoors Providers Scheme to the Outdoor Sector.

Introducing a new framework for developing relationships with third-party providers

In principle, we want to encourage people to use our land. We want to welcome and encourage providers – from independent instructors to large-scale event organisers. It enables more people to enjoy National Trust places. It’s why we’re here.

Our role is to protect the land as well as provide access. Impact and conservation is our priority when we’re considering and setting up relationships with third-party providers.

We want to work with providers to achieve shared goals.

Active Outdoors Providers Scheme

A shared goal

Looking after places in our care now and in the future is our first responsibility. However, our strategy is also about how we rise to the big challenge of the 21st century and how we work with others to find solutions. After all, the health of the countryside, protection of heritage and the wellbeing of people living in towns and cities are where the national trust started. From the National Trust’s ‘Playing our part’ strategy.

Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, says, “Our 21st-century ambition is to meet the needs of environmental pressure, and the challenges and expectations of a fast-moving world. We want to continue to maintain the highest standards of care for everything we look after while working in a way that feels relevant and necessary to people and their day-to-day lives.”

Working together for a healthy and beautiful environment

We recognise that there are a huge number of outdoor providers who are, like us, concerned about damage caused to the environment by increased use of the outdoors for organised recreational activities. We know that we share values and the goal of helping people access and enjoy the benefits of being in the great outdoors.

The Active Outdoors Providers Scheme covers:

  • Planned and purposeful active experiences organised in the outdoors by a third party.
  • Activities could be taking place either solely or partially on National Trust land.
  • The participants could be our visitors or the third party’s own customers, taking part in activities for the purpose of exercise, recreation, competition, education or fundraising.
  • The third party could be a commercial organisation, a charity, education or community group.

Activities covered by the scheme include but are not limited to:

  • Run groups
  • Led cycle rides
  • Charity challenge fundraising events
  • Triathlons
  • Trail races
  • Sponsored walks
  • Sportives
  • Rock Climbing
  • Gorge walking
  • Archery.

The scheme does not cover:

  • Commercial dog walking
  • 4x4 driving
  • Off-road motorbikes
  • Horse riding
  • Hunting
  • Shooting activities.

These all have an impact on our places but are covered by other projects.

Current Situation

There’s been a fantastic boom in outdoor exercise and events. We want to welcome and encourage providers – from independent instructors to large-scale event organisers.

A few years ago we launched a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to managing relationships with third-party providers (by issuing a licence to everyone). This didn’t work, wasn’t realistic or appropriate.

We needed a more flexible approach to framing our relationships with outdoor providers – one that sets the right tone establishes a clear sense of respect and responsibility, and protects our liability and our ‘assets’ – the land and its wildlife.

Our Solution

  • We’ve listened to feedback and are introducing a new framework, ‘The Active Outdoors Providers Scheme’.  
  • It’s a framework and a process. There’s a simple process to understand, assess and categorise relationships. This is designed to set the right tone and establish a clear sense of roles and responsibility for the land. It also helps National Trust teams think through implications for all stakeholders and is flexible enough to deal with local issues and challenges.
  • We’ve worked with external stakeholders to develop the new approach. These include IOL, BMC, WATO, AALA, AHOEC, British Orienteering among many others.

How will it work?

The Active Outdoor Providers Scheme establishes four possible ways of working between the National Trust place and the outdoor activity provider.

Providers wanting to run an event or activity should contact the relevant National Trust place to discuss their options with a member of staff. The environmental impact of the activity/event will be assessed and one of the following ways of working will be agreed.

Here, we've also provided some real-life examples to show how the different approaches work.

  • Business as usual:
    This is when a small provider such as a rock-climbing guide brings a small group to a crag on an ad hoc basis. The impact on the environment is very low so no specific action needs to be taken other than normal visitor safety. 
  • Working together to protect landscape:
    This is when a provider organises regular events for large numbers of people (a trail race for instance) on land where parts of the footpath might be fragile. An informal arrangement will be made between parties to address conservation concerns. This may involve changing the route or helping to repair the land. 
  • Formal permission for use granted:
    This would apply to events such as a trail race that occupies a section of land for the start and finish. In this instance, we would draw up a formal agreement outlining responsibilities and requirements. 
  • Commercial agreement:
    This would be drawn up for outdoor festivals and other events featuring stands run for commercial purposes. Such agreements are signed by the relevant parties and normally need to be tailored by our legal team.

For further information can be found here: