Environment Agency River Access Report Controversy
Flaws in work carried out by Brighton University for the Environment Agency (EA), looking at putting pilot voluntary canoe access agreements in place on rivers, have been highlighted in a British Canoe Union (BCU) press release (www.bcu.org.uk
Included among the reasons cited for the study being flawed are: for approximately half of the rivers addressed in this study access was already in place or not contested, there was very little consultation with the national governing body of the sport (BCU) representing the interests of over 50,000 paddlers, it fuels the angling versus canoeing debate rather than finding an innovative solution, and in the light of the Scottish Land Reform Act and following the example of other European countries, canoeists are right to expect a more realistic approach to access.
The BCU response concludes with a call for river access to be covered by legislation to ensure clarity and certainty for those visiting our rivers and to remove conflict from the situation. Research has shown that canoeing contributes about £750 million a year for the economy of England and Wales, as well as supporting over 15,000 jobs.
Access to and along water was omitted from the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) that gives public access to land areas. The BCU unsuccessfully lobbied for access to water to be included in the Act and pressed for further government action. England and Wales are unique with 41,000 miles of inland waterways with no public access; whereas in Scotland and other countries there is public access to inland waters.
The Brighton report has prompted some passionate and often despairing responses on the ukriversguidebook.co.uk
forum. One post interestingly highlighted the potential danger of negotiation: " I'm a land lawyer, and one thing I do know is that by going cap in hand to landowners and asking nicely if we can have access we are implicitly accepting that we don't have a right of access."
He carries on to say: "But a landowner who has been asked to consent to naviation and has said no will be able to use that to "estoppe" i.e. defend a claimed right of access or navigation. So voluntary access agreements will completely destroy any possibility of successfully claiming that there is an existing right of navigation and force us in to a position where we have to have new legislation.....or rely on limited consent. Does this mean the BCU accepts that there is no existing right of navigation. (If they do and I missed it somewhere I do apologise!!) If not then a voluntary access scheme is a huge backward step unless it is made absolutely clear beforehand in writing to every landowner that is approached that it is purely a matter of courtesy and without prejudice to our contention that we have every right to paddle down every river in England and Wales."
Go to www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk
for the Environment Agency summary report on voluntary river access agreements.
Related News Story: www.snowdonia-active.com/news
Topic: Rivers Access; Canoeing in Snowdonia.
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