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George wades into rally row

Created on 13/05/2016 @ 19:55
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Montgomeryshire AM Russell George has waded into the row threatening to put an end to car rallying in Mid Wales.

The Assembly Member has written to the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, to express his concern at proposals to double the charges for accessing Welsh forests for motorsport.

George, the Welsh Conservative AM for Montgomeryshire, an area which benefits from staging the Wales Rally GB, has spoken of the serious consequences which these changes could have on tourism and the wider Mid Wales economy.

In 2015, the Motorsports Association paid £339,000 for the provision of forest gravel roads in Welsh forests but Natural Resources Wales (NRW) claims that costs for maintaining and preparing roads in 2015 was actually £655,000.

As a result, from mid-June, NRW now intends to seek reimbursement for the full cost, almost doubling charges overnight on the motorsport industry in spite of the fact that England and Scotland have proposed a modest increase in charges of 0.7%.

Mr George said: “I have written to the First Minister to urge him to reconsider these proposals as a matter of urgency and I’ve asked Natural Resources Wales to meet with me to discuss a way forward.

“Rallying and motorsport events bring a large number of visitors and invaluable income to Montgomeryshire, often outside the main tourist periods. Motorsport is therefore of vital economic importance to the area and the consequences of doubling charges for road repairs will be catastrophic for the local economy if event organisers are forced to pull out of Wales.

“The doubling of charges to bring them in line with the full cost of repairs may seem logical on the face of it but in my view, it fails to recognise the wider economic benefit which these events bring to the economy of Mid Wales.

“With 10 national forest events running in Wales every year, including the Wales Rally GB, the Motor Sports Association estimates that forest stage rallying is worth approximately £15 million a year to Wales.

“I therefore urge the Welsh Government to review these proposals and return to the negotiating table as a matter of urgency to safeguard the future of forest stage rallying in Mid Wales.”

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