14 Aug 2009

Right to float: campaign for river access

RAC LogoI am delighted to hear that Canoeists have been stepping up their campaign for the right to access on rivers in England and Wales, a move that was rejected by the Government two years ago. You can log your support in the right hand column at: www.riversaccess.org

Please note I'm taking a blog holiday for about a week - garden and more needs attention - comments will have to await my return to blogging - see you soon!

Ministers ruled 2 years ago that access for canoeists would be best regulated by voluntary agreements for each river. Nonsense! Now a new campaign, supported by various organisations like British Waterways and Canoe England plus the broadcaster Griff Rhys-Jones and MPs from across the political spectrum, hopes to win the same access to rivers for canoeists that ramblers won with the “right to roam”.

With less than a year to go before a general election, the canoeists realise that there is little prospect of new legislation in the near future. Instead, they are now aiming to press Ministers to broker a new access deal that would open up 5,000 miles of waterways by the time the Olympics are held in 2012. Of the 41,000 miles of waterways that are more than three yards wide in England and Wales, 1,400 miles are currently open to canoeists. North of the border, the Scottish Executive has already approved the right to float.

One of the biggest obstacles to access is considered to be the lack of a national register of riverbank owners, making it difficult for canoeists to find out who owns the water to seek permission. It is reported that some angling representatives do not support the initiative, since they believe that canoeists disturb the fish and interfere with spawning. However, MPs of all parties are said to be mobilising to open up the waterways.

We now have the CRoW Act (Countryside Rights of Way Act) - but this hasn't helped canoeists and swimmers - as someone who used to swim in the Frome and has a canoe in their back garden which has seen little use I would love to see a change in this - amazingly even if you want to watch wildlife from a boat/canoe, put your hot feet in the water after a walk, or allow you children to wade in a river on a hot summer’s day you could be committing trespass if there is no access to or along that waterway. Despite extensive lobbying water was taken out of the CRoW Act at the eleventh hour and still there is no access to and along 98% of the rivers in England and Wales
In England and Wales, unlike elsewhere in the world, the public cannot assume there is an automatic right to have access to rivers. People are incredulous when they are made aware of this situation. Please log your support for this campaign.

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