Caving is one of four activities currently covered by the licensing scheme

Caving is one of four activities currently covered by the licensing scheme

A councillor from the city which lost four teenagers in a kayaking tragedy has started an e-petition calling on the Government to halt the proposed abolition of statutory licensing for adventure activities.

The coalition Government is planning to dismantle the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and move to a voluntary code of practice for those running outdoor activities for young people.

But Plymouth City Council member Nicky Williams is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to stop the move.

AALA was set up after Parliament passed the Activity Centres (Young Person’s safety) Act after four teenagers died in the Lyme Bay tragedy on a kayaking trip.

Ms Williams, Labour councillor for the Honicknowle ward in the city where the young people lived, is calling on the Government to maintain some form of statutory control of adventure activities which, she says, will stop providers cutting corners.

The e-petition on the Government website, which up to date has the support of almost 700 signatories, says: “On 22 March 1993, Claire Langley, Simon Dunne, Rachel Walker and Dean Sayer, pupils from Southway Comprehensive, Plymouth, tragically lost their lives whilst kayaking on a school trip organised by the St Alban’s Activity Centre.

“In response to that, and other tragedies, in 1995 “The Activity Centres (Young Person’s Safety) Act gained royal assent.

“The Government is proposing to abolish this act and instead introduce a voluntary code of practice for adventure activities.

“We believe that learning outside the classroom should be supported, unhelpful processes removed but that sustained increased participation is only possible when underpinned with an effective quality safety framework.”

The opposition to licensing abolition, which follows a report by ex-Tory cabinet minister Lord Young, has attracted cross-party support in Plymouth, as well as being backed by local MPs.

The e-petition adds: “Parents and schools will not be assured by measures they believe incapable of deterring those who would cut corners and therefore call on the Government to retain some form of compulsory licensing of these activities.”

Councillor Williams said: “The tragic events at Lyme Bay where four young people from Southway lost their lives illustrate just how important it is to have formal regulation of this industry.

“We feel so strongly about this that we’ve united as a city to create a petition that we’d like people to sign.

“We are not against reviewing the current licensing regime but the suggested voluntary code of practice is simply not enough.

“Both parents and teachers need to be confident and assured that the safety of their children is of paramount importance to organisations being entrusted with their welfare.”

Councillor Sam Leaves, Plymouth’s cabinet member for children and young people, added: “As a city directly affected by the tragic events of Lyme Bay, where four young people from Southway lost their lives, we stand united in our views that the safety of our children must always come first.

“We all want to see young people taking part in a full and varied range of adventure activities that are properly risk assessed and soundly licensed to ensure safety. I welcome the opportunity that this petition will provide for local people to make their views known to parliament about the importance of safety in adventure activities.”

If e-petitions gain 100,000 signatures the matter can be debated in the Commons. Councillor Williams’s petition runs until December, but the matter is due to come before Parliament in May this year.

The Scottish Government is currently midway through a consultation on how to proceed with adventure activity licensing north of the Border if and when AALA is abolished. The consultation ends on 30 March.

Schools and voluntary organisations are currently exempt from AALA licensing which covers only four defined outdoor activities.