Local authorities trapped by an unforeseen change to the recent regulations on outdoor safety may be forced to suspend some summer activities for children, advisers have cautioned. Play schemes and community education programmes involving activities such as canoeing, abseiling and walking may have to be abandoned.
Authorities must seek a licence to run supervised activities, despite not charging children. Many had assumed that only commercial ventures would fall within the scope of the regulations and have not submitted an application .
Against earlier expectations, countryside rangers who take children on environmental walks and peripatetic outdoor education instructors will also be caught by the stringent licensing regime that comes into force after August 1, Drew Michie, secretary of the Scottish Advisory Panel for Outdoor Education, said.
Councils will be deemed to be trading illegally under the Young Person's Safety Act 1995 if they have not submitted an application, arranged appropriate management structures and sent a cheque for Pounds 200 to the Cardiff-based Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, a subsidiary of the Tourism Quality Services agency.
Mr Michie commented: "It would be very unfortunate for the TQS to prevent young people from participating in activities the scheme was designed to protect."
He blamed the Health and Safety Executive for a late change to the regulations, introduced in April following the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy in 1993 which claimed the lives of four young people.
In Scotland, Mr Michie said, local government reorganisation had delayed the pulling together of different departments with interests in the outdoors. Many councils would therefore be unable to meet the deadline of next Thursday and will be acting illegally if they continued to run adventure activities.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has notified councils of the potential risks but has stressed that the HSE is "understood to be adopting a pragmatic approach".
The convention nevertheless advises councils to meet next week's deadline.