Conservationists down tools as insurer quits

LUCY MAGGS

Community conservation groups have stopped work because of problems with insurance cover.

The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) has around 2,500 community groups associated with it. Most of the these groups have been insured in association with BTCV through Ecclesiastical Insurance. But the insurer decided not to renew the policy for BTCV and the associated groups this year.

The insurance company said that many groups were involved in activities such as scuba diving, which it did not traditionally associate with conservation.

There was also a suggestion that some groups only associated themselves with BTCV because of advantageous insurance rates.

Wendy Tobitt, a spokesperson for BTCV, said the organisation had been insured with Ecclesiastical for some time and explained that conservation work does require the use of equipment such as scuba gear. "The new level of restrictions on groups was something we couldn't tolerate,

she said.

Groups left without cover have had to stop work. Some of those affected by the change have negotiated their own insurance policies independently from BTCV. The charity has managed to negotiate a new policy with a rival insurer but it is not yet in place and affiliated groups have not been notified. "We have found other insurers that did not impose the same level of restrictions as Ecclesiastical. They were more open to the work that BTCV is doing,

said Tobitt.

Community conservation groups linked to BTCV can benefit from discounted equipment as well as access training courses and low insurance rates.

"They are very important to us and carry out a lot of work,

said Tobitt.

Insurance price hikes have affected organisations across the sector.

Aid agencies have had problems insuring staff working abroad. The terrorist attacks on 11 September have had a great impact on the insurance market.

However, a spokesman at Ecclesiastical said although this had exacerbated the situation, insurance companies had already been putting up rates and introducing tougher restrictions.

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