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Thread: Access hits the news agenda

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    Default Access hits the news agenda

    In todays' Independent Newspaper - let's hope for better things in the New Year.

    Gweedo


    Canoeists fight for right to paddle the 'blue pathways'
    By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter
    Published: 31 December 2005
    When the nation's ramblers finally achieved the right to roam at will across the countryside, it was a cause for celebration among all lovers of open spaces.

    But for one group the victory was bittersweet. For although the battle for the right to roam has been won, the fight for permission to paddle is very much the coming cause of 2006.

    Since the full implementation last month of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act Britain's two million-plus canoeists have increased their efforts to be granted similar rights to paddle freely along Britain's rivers - what they term "blue pathways" - the vast majority of which flow through land where rights are controlled by landowners.

    Campaign leaders have warned that some of their more militant followers may resort to acts of illegal trespass on private rivers if they do not make progress. Many are already unofficially breaking the law every week by canoeing on rivers where they do not have permission.

    The issue has divided MPs. Almost 100 have signed an early day motion, tabled by John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, urging the Government to extend the right to roam to all waterways - noting that the most successful Olympic canoeing nation, Germany, requires landowners to tolerate the use of non-powered craft on their waterways and that similar access in Britain would boost the nation's chances of future Olympic success.

    But a group of pro-angling MPs, led by Martin Salter, another Labour MP, have hit back with an amendment, saying that river access should be by voluntary agreement only and that sensitive aquatic environments should be protected.

    Chris Hawksworth, the access and facilities manager of the British Canoe Union, said canoeists were still angry over being excluded from the provisions of the Rights of Way Act - introduced by the Labour Government to honour a manifesto commitment. "Rivers were excluded specifically because of lobbying from both landowners and the angling fraternity," he said. "We feel we were discriminated against."

    He said that fears by anglers or naturalists that canoeists would disturb the environment were unfounded. "We aren't going to destroy swans' nests or frighten away kingfishers if we can help it. We enjoy nature as much as any other users of the countryside."

    The anomaly only persists in England and Wales. In Scotland, the introduction of wider freedoms under the Land Reform Act opened rivers to all.

    Canoeists are particularly annoyed that local angling associations maintain objections to canoeists throughout the year, and yet for four months of the fishing close season, the anglers stay at home.

    Anglers reject suggestions of discrimination, saying their concern is to preserve fishing grounds and breeding areas for a sport enjoyed by many millions more than canoeing.

    The county of Devon has some of the best rivers for canoeing in England and Wales, which flow through some of the most beautiful countryside in the South-west. And yet every weekend, to enjoy both rivers and countryside, canoeists break the law and risk threats and intimidation from landowners and fishermen.

    "Our members do not enjoy breaking the law but every week many of them do so, myself included," said Peter Thorn, 57, an educational consultant and a member of the Bideford Canoe Club who has been a canoeist since the age of 12.

    He added: "In the 1930s there was a huge outcry about the fact that grouse moors were being kept for the exclusive use of the shooting fraternity. This feels like the same kind of feudal arrangement to protect [the] exclusive preserve of the fishermen."

    The Environment Agency - the quango which looks after rivers and waterways - said that while it was anxious to open the nation's waterways to public use, it was committed to help negotiate agreements between canoeists and other users. A spokeswoman stressed that four pilot schemes were under way to establish best practice and that an extra 45 miles of waterways would be opened next year. Any legislation would be a matter for Defra, which has ruled it out for the present.
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 31st-December-2005 at 10:35 AM. Reason: Edited to remove double paste

  2. #2
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    Default wake up

    I paddled on English waters for the first time for ages at the canoe symposium & was horrified by the access restrictions.

    It seems amazing that a so called civilised country still maintains such draconian rules on access.

    The recent access laws up here have been fabulous, though getting some folk to realise their responsibilities may be a real education issue.

    So best of luck - mass mobilisation of paddlers & political lobbying may be needed.

    Alastair

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    I had wondered why this legislation had not been passed some time ago. Could not understand how landowners would manage to persuade a labour government to take their side but I had forgotten about the fishing lobby.

    Because I mostly paddle open water encounters with fishermen are not usually acrimonious.

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    The thing I find most amazing is that when I encounter individual anglers I never normally have a problem, even when I have been somewhere where the access situation is fluid! I don't think many ordinary anglers actualy understand the situation either!

    The thing that does stick in my gall though is the argument that canoeists will damage the environment, when so often I have to avoid tons of rubbish - generated by anglers - to get on to the Thames. I know that the angling body will claim these people arn't representative - and then use the same argument against us!!

    Love to see primary legislation, but can't see it being easy.

    Rich

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    Default Early day motion needs support

    If you the same rights to paddle as most of the rest of the world then take time to read the following

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2160308.html

    and contact your MP to ask them to support the early day motion. 150 MP's mean it has to go to cabinet.

    Most MP's have easily obtainable e-mail addresses and it doesn't take long to let them know how you wish them to act.

    Remember to stress positive aspects of increased access for paddlers - especially on their chances of re-election.

    But be prepared for vitriolic resistance from those vested interests who want to contibue profitting from private ownership of what was once a national resource and want to deny us peasants our rights - we have to be ready to be shot at, sued, imprisoned, transported, or hung (well not all of these, we have moved on a tiny bit since the 19th century).

    Perhaps we can move the country forward a couple of centuries on this issue?

    Brevan
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    I just have a hard time understanding how landowners can have a right to water - which flows away from their land on a daily basis. Do they still own it once it reaches the ocean?

    Here, you have access to the high water mark, and anywhere you can float a canoe - you have a right to float.
    The perfect canoe -
    Like a leaf on the water

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre girard
    I just have a hard time understanding how landowners can have a right to water - which flows away from their land on a daily basis. Do they still own it once it reaches the ocean?

    Here, you have access to the high water mark, and anywhere you can float a canoe - you have a right to float.
    Same here in Scotland but England and Wales is another case altogether.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gweedo

    Campaign leaders have warned that some of their more militant followers may resort to acts of illegal trespass on private rivers if they do not make progress. Many are already unofficially breaking the law every week by canoeing on rivers where they do not have permission.
    This looks very much like it's going to hinge on another country sports type arguement that will run and run.

    I can understand the fact that people paddle the rivers on the sly as it were, but until such time as either it eases out and we get open access arrangements, or a significant critical mass event takes place this individual action can only put the access rights further in doubt, and doesn't do us any favours en masse. It'll be a hard slog, but if we can keep it nice and tidy, it'll speed things up in the end.

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    It'll be a hard slog, but if we can keep it nice and tidy, it'll speed things up in the end.
    Will it, how?

    The longer canoeist sit on the fence and amicably put up with a diabolical access situation the longer we will have to wait. We where excluded from the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW) and that was supposed to be the best and most forward thinking access legislation in years? We don't want the titbits thrown aside from (unworkable or restrictive) voluntary agreements, but proper access proportionate to rights granted other user's for there activities, including fisherman and walkers etc.
    Illegal access, I do and will continue to so so, when it is necessary. Mass protest I would be up for that too!

    Nigel

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    Quote Originally Posted by nigelp
    Will it, how?

    The longer canoeist sit on the fence and amicably put up with a diabolical access situation the longer we will have to wait. We where excluded from the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CROW) and that was supposed to be the best and most forward thinking access legislation in years? We don't want the titbits thrown aside from (unworkable or restrictive) voluntary agreements, but proper access proportionate to rights granted other user's for there activities, including fisherman and walkers etc.
    Illegal access, I do and will continue to so so, when it is necessary. Mass protest I would be up for that too!

    Nigel
    I'd agree entirely - inactivity now would be fatal.
    My point was around lobbying and applying pressure though discussion and positive direct action, rather than handing the legislature a reason to not draft the very access legislation we need. The support for that thought is based on the maxim of law - "One who seeks equity must do equity".

    I'm playing devils advocate now to try to develop that line of thinking, so bear with me if it all sounds a bit rubbish, but here goes. Picture the scene, perhaps starting with a complaint at an MP's constituency surgery one day...

    If lots of boats are involved in 'trespass' issues throughout the land - then surely that situation calls for stronger, or more punitive restrictions on access, to ensure we protect the environment, or the landowners right to privacy, or so as not to put pressure on the livelyhoods of those who make a living from fishing

    ... or whichever other reason is used to support the arguement.

    I'd be concerned about a simple incident being whipped up into a frenzy in the press, and that in turn leading to a further crackdown on canoists.
    ... just kinda turning the stone over a bit for discussion.

    That said there is a fantastic looking bit of river I'm desperate to get on, and it's a closed section.

    What is the statutory offence in using a boat on closed water I wonder ?
    I used trespass in inverted comma's here, as I don't know if the offence is actually defined as trespass, or covered by some other definition. I wonder if there is any case law we could have a look at.

    Does the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 specifically define water access, or imply it through ommision I wonder ? ... It does talk about 'routes and ways', but it's quite a big bit of legislation to assimilate, so I may have that entirely out of context of course.

    [edit for improved readabily whilst in 3rd person]
    Last edited by monkey_pork; 3rd-May-2006 at 07:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monkey_pork
    What is the statutory offence in using a boat on closed water I wonder ?
    I am no lawyer and I do not have the indepth knowledge of this but from what I read when writing the access page for this site I believe the trespass is a civil offence and not a criminal one. Therefore it is the owner who must take you to court to get damages not an offence for the police to become involved in. But like I say I am not guaranteeing that I did not just make that up.

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    My understanding of CROW is that it deals quite exclussively with journeys made by foot and the right to roam excludes those on horseback and cycles. Those groups however have statutory rights to access already. how where they obtained?

    On the Isle of Wight there are over 600 miles of public rights of way. Excluding canals and rivers such as the Wye, Severn and Thames that where once important arterial routes and have access rights enshrined to them, how many miles of rivers have been granted 365 days of the year access by negotiation?

    Mass protest may cause a back lash of legislation against canoe's but this can only be in context of what laws exist now, new laws take a long time to be considered and implemented. In the mean time a vacuum of opportunity may exist where canoeist are able to speak out and have there views brought forward while the issue is in the public arena.
    Discuss........

    If agreements are in place to allow canoes access to rivers then I won't come along and paddle there outside of that, but other little tempting rivers umm?
    Nigel

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    Shamelessly copied this from the BCU website link here:


    There are 4,540 kilometres of canal and rivers with navigation rights.
    There are in excess of 65,000 kilometres of rivers with NO ACCESS
    Successive governments have encouraged canoeist to seek to negotiate access agreements. These have only achieved 812 kilometres of highly restricted access.
    So probably no access 365 days a year and only 812 KM of restricted access!! P*&s poor really

    Trespass (under civil law)
    If you are canoeing privately owned water without permission, then you might be trespassing. Simple trespass is a civil offence, not a criminal offence. Damages can be awarded against the trespasser (i.e. a fine), or an injunction can be issued to prevent repetition of trespass or to restrain threatened trespass. It is not a police matter unless a criminal offence is committed; this would only be if wilful or malicious damage was done, there was a conspiracy to commit trespass, there was behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace or it was a case of aggravated trespass.

    If you are challenged whilst paddling, please be courteous and polite whatever the situation. Avoid anything that could be interpreted as a breach of the peace or conspiracy to trespass (i.e. criminal offences). If you are challenged by an authorised official you could be obliged to give your name and address, If you are accused of trespass and genuinely believe you are exercising a public right of navigation or are paddling within the terms of an access agreement, you should say so and refuse to admit trespass. There is no case if you can prove that you are within your rights or have permission. Where you have a legal right the law requires you to exercise the right reasonably with due consideration for others.

    Aggravated Trespass (under criminal Law)
    The Criminal Justice Act 1994 introduced the new criminal offence of aggravated trespass. This should not be confused with ordinary trespass, which is a civil offence. To commit aggravated trespass you must first be trespassing; whilst trespassing you must also have the intention of obstructing or disrupting a lawful activity (such as hunting, shooting or fishing) or intimidating those engaged in such lawful activities Canoeists should not fall foul of this new law if they canoe in a peaceful and considerate manner. We have no indication as to how the Police the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts will interpret the act where paddlers in pursuit of their sport, a lawful activity, might be involved.
    Nigel

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagiKelly
    I am no lawyer and I do not have the indepth knowledge of this but from what I read when writing the access page for this site I believe the trespass is a civil offence and not a criminal one. Therefore it is the owner who must take you to court to get damages not an offence for the police to become involved in. But like I say I am not guaranteeing that I did not just make that up.
    This 'owner' could be the relevant executive tho' I assume (and assumption is always dangerous of course), such as the National Parks Authority exercising their delegated powers as Secratary of State, or any other large organisation, such as a church authority (given the size of their estate holding in England) ... as much as it could be that bloke up the river who's garden ends in the water. That might make for more of a challenge in the courts as the larger agencies may well have more resources to pursue a sanction against the perpetrator.

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelp
    My understanding of CROW is that it deals quite exclussively with journeys made by foot and the right to roam excludes those on horseback and cycles. Those groups however have statutory rights to access already. how where they obtained?
    Thanks, I only had a very sketchy overview (until I actually started reading it here). A fair point tho - how indeed ? I wonder if the experience gained by those groups could be usefully used by us - something the BCU have in hand one would imagine ?

    More river access would certainly support serveral key government policies, such as those on health, lifelong learning and social inclusion - perhaps even on job oppportunities in rural areas - with all that brings with it in terms of positive impacts on maintaining local communities ...

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelp
    On the Isle of Wight there are over 600 miles of public rights of way. Excluding canals and rivers such as the Wye, Severn and Thames that where once important arterial routes and have access rights enshrined to them, how many miles of rivers have been granted 365 days of the year access by negotiation?
    I'd assume that these rights are supported by long historical precedent, precisely becasue of their navigational significance - I wonder if that gives us any leverage on other waterways ? Actually forget that, having thought about it for another 30 seconds, it'd be a monsterous research project, and would lead to an entirely piecemeal outcome and not really move the issue on in any constitutional way ...

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelp
    Mass protest may cause a back lash of legislation against canoe's but this can only be in context of what laws exist now, new laws take a long time to be considered and implemented. In the mean time a vacuum of opportunity may exist where canoeist are able to speak out and have there views brought forward while the issue is in the public arena.
    Discuss........
    This issue needs the public behind us if it's to work - exploiting the Olympic ideal was a good example of this ... if we can engage people like this, it'll make the process more of a popular movement, and having more numbers to drive it forward will help.

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelp
    If agreements are in place to allow canoes access to rivers then I won't come along and paddle there outside of that, but other little tempting rivers umm?
    Nigel
    Well... I guess that this is ultimately a matter for each of use to examine within ourselves, given the current access position we find ourselves in.


  15. #15

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    It's a strange situation in England - the Scottish access laws haven't led to any major problems so far and I hope that the Sassenachs have the good sense to adopt them.

    It saddens me to see, say, birdwatchers and wildfowlers at loggerheads, when their interests are 95% mutual. I think it is the same with anglers and paddlers. The real threats in both cases are pollution, loss of habitat, development etc and we should be allies not enemies.

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    I've been a member of the 4x4 fraternity for about 24 years and the NERC bill that comes into affect this week just sickens me, of the 5% of rights of way we could legally drive, we've now lost 40% of.

    I wasn't aware of the issues that canoeist have with RoW and it completely baffles me. (shakes head and mumbles obscenities.) Maybe I should park up my 1955 Land Rover and hang up my ideas of buying an open canoe and join the Ramblers instead......... I don't bloomin' think so!

    It does appear that if you are part of a minority past time / sport in England today, then you've got no chance of having a fair trial, the government will always take the side of the majority.

    Rant over!
    Damian


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    If it makes you feel any better despite out great canoe access in Scotland we have no access for 4 x 4s at all. No greenlanes or the like. It is either a surfaced highway or private land. So just goes to show you we do not have everything.

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    I'd assume that these rights are supported by long historical precedent, precisely becasue of their navigational significance - I wonder if that gives us any leverage on other waterways ? Actually forget that, having thought about it for another 30 seconds, it'd be a monsterous research project, and would lead to an entirely piecemeal outcome and not really move the issue on in any constitutional way ...

    If enough of us raise such queries the powers that be will get fed up and do something about giving us acces to enough water to keep us happy.
    I've got my MP asking the Secretary of State for Transport about a river at the moment. A motorway across the river Itchen (the M27 or M3) had to have a bridge built specifically to let boats navigate that river yet access is blocked by the landowners so the bridge cannot be reached by river. River Itchen Navigation acts may not have been revoked so the right to Navigate to Winchester may still exist.

    Could be interesting clash between that and Riparian rights,

    It is worth looking into - once you know of possible cases then you can publicise them and get others to raise the issue as well.

    Brevan
    PS Damian - 4X4's have thousands of legal rights of way - public highways.
    Brevan,
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  19. #19

    Default radio 2 poll

    This will probably be of interest to you all.
    There is currently a poll being conducted on the radio 2 web page asking the question 'Should Canoeists Have The Freedom Of Our Rivers?'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/vine/

    Its not going our way at the mo!

    Phil

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    Its not going our way at the mo!
    That leaves 2 options

    1. Get Terry Wogan on side and sway the whole debate to our favor

    2. Kidnap said DJ and hand him back when the whole issue is sorted (my mum will hide him at her house she loves The Wogan!!)

    Seriously I am going to send that link to everyone I know (both should vote) and if all do the same maybe we can sway the poll!! Other message boards?

    Nigel

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil
    This will probably be of interest to you all.
    There is currently a poll being conducted on the radio 2 web page asking the question 'Should Canoeists Have The Freedom Of Our Rivers?'

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/vine/

    Its not going our way at the mo!

    Phil
    looks OK now keep adding them votes.

    Alastair

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