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Coniston Water Byelaw regulatory assessment

Background

In 1975 the Lake District Special Planning Board introduced byelaws on to Coniston Water under the provisions of section 13 of the Countryside Act 1968 to ensure that appropriate protections were put in place for the environment and health and safety when water speed record attempts were being undertaken and to generally restrict the speed of vessels on the lake.

In 2010 the Lake District National Park Authority (we) revised those byelaws to make provision for the testing and running of the Bluebird K7, Donald Campbell’s recovered and restored craft from the fatal record attempt on Coniston in 1967.  At this stage it was accepted that the Bluebird K7 would be unlikely to undertake any record attempts and would not fall within the existing provisions for speed record attempts and amendment was required to enable the Bluebird K7 to be able to run on Coniston Water.

The wording of the 2010 byelaws allows for any water speed record either national or international to be undertaken on Coniston Water provided it is undertaken in compliance with both the rules and regulations of both the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).  This provided a recognised framework for appropriate safety and environmental protection and the legitimacy of records. Towards the end of 2018, the RYA announced that it was no longer to be the relevant national body dealing with power boat speed record attempts.

Specifically the 2010 byelaws state:

“[The byelaw relating to the speed limit of 10mph] shall not apply to any person undertaking an attempt on a British National and/or World Water Speed Record, officially approved by the Lake District National Park Authority and by and held under the rules and supervision of the Royal Yachting Association and the Union Internationale Motonautique”.

This is interpreted as: any person attempting a British or World Water Speed Record on the lake is exempt from the speed limit of 10 miles per hour provided the record attempt is

  • Officially approved by the Lake District National Park Authority and
  • Officially approved by of the RYA and UIM and
  • Held under the rules and supervision of the RYA and UIM.

The UIM is the international governing body for power boat racing and record attempts.  The RYA was a member of the UIM until 1 January, 2019.
Since 1 January, 2019, the British Power Boating Association has been appointed as the National Authority for power boat racing in the UK. This position is for a probationary period of two years and the RYA is committed to transfer its records to the BPBA.

Since the RYA is no longer the National Authority for power boat racing and record attempts, it is no longer possible for the RYA to officially approve a Record and for Records Week to be held under the rules and supervision of the RYA and UIM.  Holding records week prior to any change in the Lake District Coniston Water Byelaws 2010 would place the organizers at risk of prosecution for breach of the byelaws and potentially invalidate any record attempt. The organisers of Coniston Records Week decided that the Coniston Records Week event that was to take place in November 2019 would not go ahead. They have requested that we amend the Coniston Water Byelaws to allow for the event to take place in the coming years.

We have also received a request from a group of individuals who wish to make an attempt on the outright world water speed record. This request is to remove any reference to the UIM from the Byelaws since they do not consider that the rules and regulations of the UIM are appropriate for such record attempts particularly with regards to certain safety requirements involved in respect of the type of vessel they intend to build and use.

Objective of proposed byelaws

The objective of the proposed amendment to the Coniston Water Byelaws 2010 is to amend the byelaws to permit Coniston Records Week to take place from 2020 and to provide flexibility to permit some events to take place outwith the rules and regulations of the UIM and the national body for record attempts in the UK.

Consideration has been given to the removal of byelaws on Coniston Water. This is not appropriate as the lake benefits from public rights of navigation which permit members of the public to use the lake for the purposes of powerboating, sailing, swimming and other water based activities and it is considered appropriate to retain the 10 mph speed limit for general use of the lake for the purposes of safety of those using the lake. We also consider it appropriate to restrict those events that may take place at speed for the benefit of the natural environment, heritage of the lake, lakeshore and surroundings.

Bearing in mind the cultural heritage of Coniston Water and the fact that world speed records are historically and culturally important to the Coniston area, it is still considered appropriate to permit world and national water speed records to be undertaken there. The Coniston Water Byelaws 2010 have been overtaken by changes to relevant national governing and supervisory bodies and are no longer appropriate to permit such speed records to take place. So that the Byelaws may be future proofed as far as possible we feel it is appropriate not to specify either the international or national bodies for record attempts in the UK. It is not certain which national body will undertake the role formerly undertaken by the RYA in the future and it is necessary to mitigate the need to legally change the Coniston Water Byelaws if there are further changes.

We consider it appropriate to retain byelaws imposing a general 10 mph speed limit on the lake whilst making provision for world and national water speed records to take place. We anticipate that we will receive requests for Bluebird K7 to undertake further testing, demonstrations and to be potentially part of ongoing public events on Coniston Water and for outright record attempts by other individuals to run on Coniston Water. We feel it is appropriate to amend the Byelaws to allow the Authority to grant exemptions to the speed limit subject to conditions for certain events. These conditions will be primarily to ensure public safety and environmental protection.

To achieve this objective we propose to amend the Coniston Water Byelaws to remove specific references to water speed record attempts and Bluebird K7 and, in their place, to introduce an exemption application process or any individuals or organisations wishing to exceed the 10mph speed limit on Coniston Water similar to that which currently operates on Windermere Lake.

Impact

Consideration has been given to the impact of the proposed byelaws on those affected by it. We anticipate that the impact of any change in the bylaws will be negligible bearing in mind the water speed records that are currently permitted on the lake. We will introduce an exemption application process/procedure by which we can authorise certain events to take place that may not otherwise have been permitted under the current byelaws but which will allow us to impose conditions to ensure health and safety on the lake, protect the natural environment and heritage of the lake and the foreshore, and protect the amenity of all legitimate lake users and the local community.

We have undertaken informal consultation on the proposed amendments to the byelaws and the comments received are attached at Appendix 1. This consultation was held over a 6 week period, from 25 October until 11 December 2019. We contacted 35 organisations and from these have received 8 responses.

In light of these comments we have made amendments to the proposed byelaws as follows:

  • We have amended byelaw 5 in light of the comments made by the Royal Yachting Association to make it clear that those exceeding the speed limit with the permission of the Authority are exempt from the requirements of byelaw 4 relating to the 10mph speed limit.
  • Having considered the RYA’s comments in respect of byelaw 7, which was included to make reference to the Authority’s evaluation criteria, we have removed this byelaw. However it should be noted that the Authority will consider the evaluation criteria set out in the consultation documentation as amended from time to time when determining exemption applications.

We have also taken the opportunity to amend the definition “vessel” contained within byelaw 3(b) to clarify this definition in light of changes in remote control technology and requests by members of the public to operate non-passenger-carrying, remote-controlled vessels in excess of the speed limit. This amendment will be subject to comment during the formal consultation process.

Comments made about the timing of events, the need for them to remain exceptional and additional environmental requirements that ought to be included have been noted and will be considered as part of the evaluation criteria when determining whether or not to grant an exemption. The revised evaluation criteria are contained at Appendix 2.

We note the concerns of the organisers of Coniston Records Week that the reference of the byelaws to permission being granted ‘from time to time’ does not give reassurance that the event will be seen as being allowed an annual exemption. The event is a long standing occurrence with a proven track record and we understand that the residents and business of the area appreciate the impact the event has on the local economy and the recognition worldwide that the event brings to the area.

First, it should be made clear that the 2010 byelaws require permission of the LDNPA for records events to take place and the permission granted to Coniston Records Week was not for the event to take place in perpetuity; this will not change under the provisions of the proposed byelaws. Second, we have no intention of preventing Coniston Records Week in its current form from taking place in the future. The suggested re-introduction of specific reference to world water speed and national water speed records as suggested by the organisers of Coniston Records Week would restrict other events such as the more regular running of Bluebird K7 or other historic vessels from taking place. We consider this to be unduly restrictive in light of the potential benefits to the Lake District National Park that events such as the running of Bluebird K7 could bring.

To ensure that events that have the potential to recur annually can be properly managed and promoted, there is nothing to prevent the organisers of such events applying for permits to cover several years in advance of the event dates proposed.  This would allow organisers certainty about the timing of the events and the conditions to which the events must adhere and would provide certainty about such events for the local community and other lake users.

Regulatory burden

Byelaws already exist on Coniston Water regulating the speed at which vessels can travel on its surface. The Byelaws also contain exemptions which permit vessels to exceed the speed limit if attempting world or national water speed records. The current Byelaws already imposes a regulatory burden upon us to ensure that the Byelaws are adhered to. We anticipate that the administration of an exemption procedure will slightly increase the regulatory burden on the Authority. However we already have in place such an exemption procedure for Windermere Lake and it is anticipated that this scheme can be adopted with some modification to suit Coniston Water.

The exemption procedure will also place a burden upon those making an application they will have to supply appropriate health and safety, insurance and environmental information to us so that we are able to undertake an assessment as to whether or not an exemption should be granted. The burden appears to us to be one of providing information rather than putting such requirements in place since these items should form part of the organisation of such events.

The exemption procedure for Windermere Lake requires applicants to contribute to the Authority’s costs of assessing the application and where appropriate for monitoring the event.  It is anticipated that a similar scheme would work for Coniston Water.  Bearing in mind the total cost of staging these events, it is considered that that the Authority’s charges, which would only cover the actual costs incurred by the Authority, are minimal in relation to the overall cost of hosting/participating in such events.

We know that Coniston Records Week which is currently held in November each year brings is of value in terms of income generation to the area in terms of accommodation and other spend all those participating in and spectating at the event. The proposed byelaws will allow flexibility within the byelaws to allow us to be responsive to new events and initiatives on the lake which will benefit the Lake District National Park in general and the local community in particular.  Whilst it is not possible to estimate the financial benefit to the local economy, Coniston Records Week is worth a substantial amount to the local economy and on this basis any future events could contribute significant sums.

The proposed amendments will also future proof the byelaws in the event of further changes to setting and monitoring international and national records and in permitting different activities to be undertaken on the lake as technology develops; building on the past culture of water sports activity on Coniston Water.

Conclusion

The Coniston Water Byelaws 2020 will introduce a minimal additional regulatory burden over and above that which already exists. They will provide a mechanism that can permit Coniston Records Week to continue on Coniston Water, promoting the Lake District National Park and the local area in and around Coniston and providing substantial benefit to the local economy whilst making provision for other such events. The changes proposed should future proof the byelaws to prevent further amendments being required in the future and will bring exemptions process to the speed limit on Coniston Water in line with the process for determining exemptions on Windermere.