AIM Member Profile
Established in 1999 on the site of a former RAF base in Plymouth, the Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre is one of the foremost Outdoor Education centres in the South West.
It opens all year round to provide a wide range of watersports and land-based adventure activities for individuals, groups and affiliated clubs and associations. Located on the tidal estuary of the Plymouth Sound, the centre facilities include accommodation for up to 60 guests, boat storage and a waterside cafe bar that is open to the public.
Watersports offered include canoeing, coasteering, kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing. Land-based activities within easy reach of the centre include caving, gorge walking and rock climbing on limestone crags.
School groups visit the centre throughout the year and travel from as far afield as North Wales, Lincolnshire and Cornwall. Currently most groups that visit are from secondary schools but in recent years the centre has seen an increase in the number of primary schools attending, particularly from the immediate catchment area in and around Devon.
From Not-For-Profit to Charitable Status
The centre operates on a long-term lease from Plymouth City Council and has successfully operated as a “not-for-profit” company for many years. It has recently completed a transition to charitable status and now operates as the Mount Batten Centre Charity Trust. Alex King, Centre Manager, says that the prime reason for becoming a charity was to access a wider range of potential funding sources:
“With our newly established Charity status we will be able to access funding and grants, and benefit from tax relief, enabling us to increase our offering and make further improvements to the Centre, ensuring that all of our activities continue to be for the benefit of the Plymouth, and wider, community.”
Alex explained that the process of changing to charitable status was not without its challenges and he would be happy to offer advice to any other centre considering such a move. The process took many months and was not at all straightforward. Some of the centre’s trading activities have stayed outside the charity within a not-for-profit company that operates in parallel to accommodate some of the hospitality services that they provide (bar, weddings, parties, etc.).
One interesting outcome from their new charitable status has been the innovative “Recycle for Rewards” scheme that they have launched with Radio Plymouth to encourage local Primary Schools to earn credit for their school through recycling projects. Credits gained by the schools can then be “spent” on activities at the centre.
Flexible Staff Structure
The centre operates a flexible staff structure with a core team of 10 full-time permanent staff supplemented by a large number of freelance, casual and part-time workers. They employ a full-time Hospitality Manager, a part-time Housekeeper and up to 18 additional hospitality or housekeeping staff on a casual / part-time basis. They have a database of over 70 local Instructors who may help them as required throughout the seasonal peaks and troughs of the year. The centre can have up to 240 guests on the water and activity staff numbers can range from two to 32 per day.
The Mount Batten Watersports and Activities Centre moved to AIM in 2014. In addition to Public and Employers’ Liability cover of £10m and Professional Indemnity cover of £2m, AIM provides property cover for a large fleet of boats and equipment and also arranges the insurance of their 7-seater vehicle with a specialist motor insurer.
Alex King, Centre Manager, values the industry knowledge and expertise within AIM and said that this was a major factor that was considered along with cost savings when making the decision to move from their previous insurer. He appreciates the sense of community that is AIM and the opportunities for Members to help each other. One such opportunity arose recently when Alex, whose previous experience includes the management of a group of UK dry-ski slopes, was invited to share his winter-sports technical expertise with a fellow AIM Member. This was to provide an external review of their procedures relating to a recently acquired dry-ski slope which they had added to their range of managed activities.
Other AIM community events include Member seminars, the AGM and the election of AIM directors. Alex says that he has not been disappointed since joining AIM and appreciates the added value that is provided by a “flexible approach with a personal touch”.
More info: www.mount-batten-centre.com