SOUTHER - MEMBERS ONLY??
Chris Field - 03/10/2004
All members will be aware of the sensitivity of many of our sites with Souther being one of the most tenuous. The root cause of the friction is one impossible farmer but the problems are exacerbated by occasional errors and cock-ups by pilots. As a result the site is restricted to a handful of gliders and only 2 days in a week.
The incident in early September highlighted the risks of this open site policy. A (perfectly reasonable) group of 9 Yorkshire pilots was spending a week in the Lakes. Along with an equal number of local pilots they headed for Souther on 7 September. As a result the glider limited was exceeded and the problem was exacerbated by non-XC conditions which kept most of the pilots around the hill. The following day also proved to be a Souther day so James Jackson and I headed in that direction only to meet the group from Yorkshire. (Just to add to the problems a pilot had stuffed his jumbo campervan in the small lay-by.) To pre-empt a more serious problem Gordy made the decision to close the site for the week.
Without the large visiting group the over crowding on the first day would not have been a significant issue. Without this same group we would have been able to fly the following day. So members of the CSC cannot fly our own sites because of visiting pilots!
I am not casting aspersions on these visitors; they were good experienced pilots and had a good appreciation of the problems of sensitive sites and at least one of them was a member of the CSC. This is not always the case. Many of the problems we have with our sites are caused by visiting pilots who ignore the site guide, cause mayhem and leave us (Gordy) to pick up the pieces.
I believe that the only effective way to protect the very sensitive sites is to make them CSC only. I realise that this flies in the face of the CSC tradition and ethos of free sites for all but at this rate we will lose Souther completely.
I think I am aware of main arguments against member only sites. The arguments and counter arguments are:
((We are in a National Park with free access for all. We have no right to deny visitors flying rights.)) Any restriction should be presented as a reasonable method of protecting a sensitive site. The situation would be kept under review so if things change the restriction would be lifted.
((How could such a restriction be policed?)) It can’t and policing is the wrong word. I believe that most pilots are reasonable and would adhere to any site rules. After all, we do it all time don’t we; lambing restrictions, parking restrictions etc. Once pilots become aware of the restriction they will go elsewhere for a south-easterly.
((What about Cumbrian Pilots who are not in the CSC. )) The numbers are small and they will probably ignore any restrictions; they probably do anyway.
((What about clubs with reciprocal rights?)) We have reciprocal rights with the Dales but Staggs Fell is Dales Members only! What’s the difference?
I believe that the CSC is one of the most welcoming clubs registered with the BHPA. We welcome visiting pilots, we make our comprehensive site guide freely available on the Web (pity they don’t read it) and we don’t ask for temporary membership fees. I don’t believe that we would be seen as unreasonable if we restricted access to our most sensitive sites to members. It is what all the other clubs do.
If you feel strongly either way on this issue I suggest you let me or a committee member know. If there is significant support either way I will pass it on to the committee and it can be raised at the next committee meeting and if necessary at the AGM. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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