CNCC reaches new agreement with the Langcliffe Hall Estate

11 December 2018

A long time ago, back in the late 1970s, an access agreement was drawn up between the CNCC and representatives of the Langcliffe Hall Estate. The arrangement was a traditional permit based system available to clubs, the norm at the time, which covered access to caves such as Penyghent Pot and Dale Head Pot.

The system endured until January 2018 when the CNCC withdrew from the arrangement. A few years prior to this we became aware that the caves formed part of a Tax Exempt Heritage Asset when HMRC published details that had until then been considered confidential. This tax status dated back to the 1980s and gave the estate reduced tax liability in exchange for increased public access, including for the caves covered by the CNCC access agreement.

Times have moved on, the CRoW Act applies to much of the land, and the public, including cavers, have greater expectations of access. A review of the 1970s access arrangements was therefore long overdue. Previous CNCC Access Officers made enquiries with the estate owners but had been unable to progress into talks for a number of reasons, one of which was the request to pay agent costs for any negotiation, which was unacceptable.

When our current Access Officer (Tim Allen) took over the role, establishing a dialogue with the estate was a priority. It simply wasn’t acceptable to continue to support an access agreement where no two-way dialogue was possible, and so we withdrew.

Withdrawing from the 1970 agreement must have helped, as soon after, Tim was able to set up a meeting with representatives of the estate. The opportunity to explain the nature of the caves on their land and the expectations of cavers was very useful in establishing a good relationship. Several discussions followed in a professional manner and eventually the outline of a sensible arrangement was reached. We termed this a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MoU) rather than the traditional ‘access agreement’ and it addressed the remaining concerns of the estate.

As you can see from the conditions set out in this MoU, it gives effectively open access to the caves on CRoW ‘access land’ across the estate such as Penyghent Pot. It also makes clear that other caves on private land are by permissive routes but there are no restrictions.

A short statement on landowner indemnity was produced and included by agreement between the landowner, the BCA and the BCA insurers. Other conditions are common sense and only state what we already aspire to do.

By careful negotiation this simple understanding satisfies the needs of a major landowner whilst giving cavers the freedoms they desire. We hope all who cave in this area will do so with courtesy and respect for both the land and the caves and abide by the guidance laid down in the countryside and cave conservation codes.

The CNCC are grateful to the estate for their part in this matter and look forward to a future where sensible negotiations will benefit all who wish to cave in our region.