News: ABIS and BCA Agree Joint Statement

Photography by, courtesy of Dan yr Ogof Showcaves

Following the one day closure of showcaves to cavers by the Association of British and Irish Showcaves as a protest against BCA’s CroW campaign, subsequent discussions between both bodies have led to the following joint statement which Darkness Below has been asked to publish:

Statement on a future working relationship between ABIS and BCA.

Following the meeting between Andy Eavis, the Chairman of the British Caving Association and Ashford Price of the Association of British and Irish Showcaves many points were discussed as a positive joint way forward for both parties. BCA accepts that ABIS has the conservation of caves and public safety as genuinely held concerns, and ABIS accepts that BCA have the right to explore ways to reinterpret CRoW, whilst considering both cave conservation and land owner’s rights.

Currently, DEFRA, Natural England and NRW interpret the CRoW Act as not applying to caves. ABIS and BCA accept that if this interpretation is changed there is a need to look for solutions to various aspects of implementation. Both parties agree that there should be an increase in factors that affect conservation and safety of personnel within all caves. ABIS and BCA differ in their opinion as to the extent of the potential impact on the safety of members of public, but they both agree there is value in working together to provide information to the general public over safety in caves.

To this end, BCA is producing a leaflet to be issued by show cave owners and operators which will provide advice to members of the public. Showcave owners and operators will also distribute other material produced by BCA. Conservation of all caves is of great importance. To this extent the BCA has already revised its minimal impact caving guidelines, and has plans already formulated to launch it at the forthcoming Eurospeleo Congress.

ABIS accepts that BCA is looking at ways to reinforce its message on conservation through caving clubs, constituent bodies and individual members to foster a positive environment in which its members respect access arrangements, and conservation. It is also recognised that ABIS has a vital role to play in educating the general public on the safe introduction to caving as well as spreading the message of conservation.

BCA will work together with ABIS to produce a range of new education resources for schools and clubs, as well as for members of ABIS and BCA. The organisations will work together to improve the image of caving and encourage the public to visit show caves, and look at getting good healthy exercise and enjoyment in wild caves. Doing this in a very safe and reasonable manner after joining a caving, club or other similar organisation.

There remain several other details of varying significance which ABIS and BCA need to work on before any joint view can be produced, notably the issue of unauthorised digging, including into caves potentially connected to Showcaves. Both ABIS and BCA undertake to do so even though some of these will take time to achieve.

Finally, it was agreed to progress things together between ABIS and BCA in a reasonable and respectful manner.

Text of statement supplied by ABIS and BCA

Read earlier articles relating to this story on Darkness Below: