ANOTHER accident like the Lyme Bay canoe tragedy would be waiting to happen if new licensing proposals are passed, it has been warned.

The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) was set up in 1996 following the deaths of four teenagers in Lyme Bay in 1993.

The tragedy led to calls for tougher licensing for outdoor activities centres and the founding of the AALA and a statutory licensing regime.

The Health and Safety Executive has now recommended that the authority is abolished and is replaced by a code of practice.

There are fears the move could lead to more deaths.

Aileen and Howard Lucas’s 17-year-old son Andrew died in 2009 while he was on a walking holiday in Spain.

They are campaigning to highlight the government’s plans and want people in Lyme Regis to be made aware.

Mrs Lucas, from Lincolnshire, said: “It doesn’t seem fair to the families of these kids. It’s not much of a lasting tribute to them.

“It suggests those teenagers’ lives were somehow expendable.

“I think there would be a local interest in these proposals.”

Mr and Mrs Lucas are campaigning for the AALA to not only be saved but for its remit to be extended to overseas trips.

“That’s really why we started to campaign on this,” said Mrs Lucas.

“The government says there is sufficient regulation already in the UK and overseas but we don’t agree with that.

“It wants to reduce regulations and costs for businesses, but we believe if you want to operate in that sort of business, that’s an unavoidable cost.

“There will be a code of practice but it will be completely up to the businesses whether they comply with the rules and regulations.”

Mrs Lucas said: “They haven’t really consulted with parents of young people taking part in such activities. Surely they should be one of the most important group of stakeholders?”

On the day of the tragedy – March 22, 1993 – Lyme Regis fisherman Paul Wason came across an empty canoe and alerted Portland Coastguard.

He fears another tragedy could happen if the AALA is abolished.

Mr Wason said: “I don’t know about scrapping it, they should tighten up on it. The training that they have to do to get these licences is so feeble anyway.

“The licences need to be in place so that these people are accountable. If you give people free reign to do what they want, every Tom, Dick and Harry will be starting up outdoor education centres.

“You’ll get all sorts of people who will want to make a quick buck and if you let them operate without a licence you can imagine what’s going to happen.

“An accident like that will happen all over again. The licensing was something good to come out of it all and the fact they are thinking about scrapping it is wrong.”

Teens died in accident

• FOUR teenagers died and another four were rescued after hours at sea during the tragedy 17 years ago.

The sixth form pupils were from a school in Plymouth and went out on the canoe trip with instructors from St Alban’s leisure and learning centre in Lyme Regis.

The group set out in the morning on what was meant to be a two-hour trip to Charmouth and back.

They got into difficulty within an hour and failed to arrive back at Lyme Regis when they were expected.

Teenagers Simon Dunne, Claire Langley, and Rachel Walker, all aged 16, and Dean Walker, 17, drowned, and four other teenagers were rescued after spending hours in the sea.

• LORD Young of Graffham recommended that the AALA should be abolished and replaced by a code of practice in a report published in October last year. The Health and Safety Executive said on its website it was working towards implementing Lord Young’s recommendation.

It said: “The current expectation is that licensing will remain in place until late 2012. Providers of licensable activities must continue to comply with the requirements on them until licensing ends. The work is still very much in the developmental stages and there are a number of possible options to remove licensing.

“The intent of the recommendation is clearly to remove licensing without replacement (other than by a code of practice). We are aware that a very important part of work is the expectation that the public can continue to have reassurance about standards.”