Inspections prove a costly business

The inspection body for outdoor activity centres has just completed it's first full summer of operation.

The Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority came into being after the Lyme Bay disaster in 1993, when four teenagers died on an activity holiday.

The authority, based in Cardiff, registers and inspects activity centres throughout the UK. So far just under 900 centres have been inspected, and 10 have been refused a licence.

Marcus Baillie, the authority's chief inspector, reports that there have been no fatalities at any of the licensed centres this year, though there have been deaths on school trips, including that of 10-year-old Laura Zielinski, who died on a swimming expedition in North Wales in August.

The licensing scheme is costing considerably more to run than was estimated. Originally it was thought that there would be 3,000 centres in need of a licence.

This estimate proved to be wildly inaccurate and revenue from the scheme to the Department for Education and Employment is correspondingly lower than expected.

The original hope was that the scheme would be self-financing, but this now looks extremely unlikely.

Voluntary schemes to cover activity providers not covered by the regulations are expected to be in operation soon and the authority expects this autumn to publish a "self-assessment and guidance package" aimed at voluntary groups.

Teachers who wish to check whether a centre has a licence to operate should contact the Ad- venturous Activities Licensing Authority. Tel: 01222 755715

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