Information for the public

When is an Adventure Activities licence Required?

The Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995 and the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 make it a legal requirement for providers of certain adventure activities for young people to undergo an inspection of their safety management systems and hold a licence.

A licence is required by anyone providing facilities for adventure activities to young people under the age of 18 in return for payment. Facilities for adventure activities means facilities that consist of some element of instruction or leadership, other than instruction given solely in connection with the supply of equipment e.g. for the purposes of equipment hire.

Local Authorities providing adventure activities to educational establishments are required to hold a licence regardless of whether payment takes place or not.

What Adventure Activities require a licence?

There are four broad categories of adventure activities that are covered by the licensing legislation. They are as follows:

  • Caving
  • Climbing
  • Trekking
  • Watersports

Are there any exemptions?

Even if all other criteria are met, any of the following provides an exemption, and no licence is required:

1. Age of participants

If the provider only offers activities to people aged 18 or over.

2. Activity exemption

If the provider only offers activities that are not specified in the regulations, such as high ropes course or zorbing

3. Payment

If the provider is not paid for the provision (other than Local Authorities providing to educational establishments). Payment encompasses that made directly or indirectly to the provider and which is conditional to taking part in a licensable activity and includes:

  1. Payment made through intermediaries, such as booking agents
  2. Incidences where instruction or leadership is stated as “included free” as part of a complete package with other mandatory aspects of a service, such as transport, food, accommodation or equipment hire etc.

4. Educational establishment exemption.

If an educational establishment is providing activities solely to its own pupils.

5. Voluntary Association exemption. (eg Scouts, Sailing Clubs, Youth Clubs).

  1. If a voluntary association is providing activities to its own members or
  2. If a voluntary association is offering activities to other voluntary associations by agreement or
  3. If a voluntary association is offering activities to a non-member as a 'taster day' for no more than 3 days a year for any one person.

6. Parental exemption.

If each young person is accompanied on the activity by their parent or legally appointed guardian. There is no exemption where children are accompanied by other responsible adults, regardless of their relationship to the child. Accompanied means taking part or being close enough to do so.

7. Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) exemption.

If a current Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Recognised Training Centre (RTC) is providing only sailing and/or windsurfing instruction in accordance with the RYA's Conditions of Recognition for its RTCs. If the RYA RTC offers other activities that are specified in AALR they are still required to hold a Licence.

8. Ministry of Defence (MoD) exemption.

MoD personnel, including cadet officers, are exempt when on duty.

9. Employee and free-lance exemption.

If working under the authority of a licence held by some other person.

10. Hire only.

There is no element of instruction or leadership.

Exemptions from the licensing Regulations do not mean that activities are unregulated. All employers and self-employed people have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure the safety of their employees and members of the public who may be affected by the conduct of their business.

You can check whether a provider holds a licence by looking at the public register

Important notes:

Licences are issued when the Licensing Authority is satisfied that the provider's management of safety is satisfactory. Inspection does not include standards of accommodation or service.

The Licensing Authority cannot recommend a provider and does not offer a tourist information service.

More information about the Licensing Scheme is available in the Health and Safety Executive publication ' Guidance from the Licensing Authority on the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004'.

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Updated: 2023-07-13