Dear First Minister
I write to you regarding concerns that Natural Resources Wales intends to increase the annual fee charged to the Motor Sports Association to allow them to use Wales’ forests for car rallying purposes.
Rallying is a sport that attracts thousands of followers in Wales. Indeed, you could say that it is part of Welsh culture in many areas. The success of some of our drivers and co-drivers, including the latest star Elfyn Evans, is a sign of that.
But the sport is also one that brings substantial economic benefit to Wales. That is reflected in the fact that the Welsh Government has been a sponsor of Wales Rally GB for a number of years now, and I fully support that venture. I am eager in the future to try to attract part of Rally GB to my constituency. Trac Môn would be a fantastic location for special stages.
My concern, and that of many who have contacted me, is that a decision to increase the annual fee – to almost double it – would be very damaging to the sport, and would close the door to many rallying events. I note that the authorities in England and Scotland do not intend to increase the fee in the same way. I understand that Natural Resources Wales have been instructed to operate in a more ‘commercial’ way, and I realise that maintenance and repair work to forest roads costs money. But I also understand that no historical record has been shared of the annual costs of such work.
I would be grateful if you could explain what steps will now be taken to try and agree on a way forward. It appears strange that the Welsh Government GIVES to the sport with one hand – through its sponsorship of Wales Rally GB – when one of its agencies, Natural Resources Wales takes it away with the other.
I look forward to your response and to a solution to this situation.
RHUN AP IORWERTH
Assembly Member for Ynys Môn