This thread is a consolidation of many things relating to Writing to MPs covered by several other threads which have now been closed and redirected here.
We need your action! This forum represents a tremendous asset within the UK paddling community but it only has any real value in the Access campaign if we can mobilise that resource effectively.
On 22nd March 2011 The Sport and Recreation Alliance published the Red Card to Red Tape report which had been commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. One of the recommendations of the report isAlthough commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the mere publication of the report does not imply that the department accepts the report’s recommendations or will attach any priority to their implementation. They will be making these decisions over the next few months.DEFRA should introduce a statutory right of access in England and Wales for unpowered craft to inland water for recreational purposes.
This system of rights and responsibilities should be based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
To encourage the department to prioritise the recommendation concerning Access to Inland Water we need to demonstrate the importance that we, the paddling community attach to the issue by writing to our MPs now! (all MPs in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – they will all have a vote).
We have been encouraging members to write personalised letters to their MPs with limited success. It seems that many members would like a template letter to simply cut and paste. Whilst it is not the most effective way it is clearly better than not writing at all so if you feel this is what you need, here it is.
If you just want to send the template letter go to http://www.writetothem.com/, enter your postcode, click on your MP and cut and paste away! Please be sure to post the reply here.I am writing to you to seek your help for the creation of a fair and equitable framework for access to and along our rivers for all users. I am a recreational canoeist and fully accept my responsibility to accommodate the rights of other users and the needs of wildlife and the environment.
The Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, has recently commissioned the report “Red card to Red Tape” (see page 199) which has investigated, among many other things, the constraints to wider access to our inland waterways. Following the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 200, the majority of mountain, moor, heath, down and common land is now ‘open access’. Rivers and Inland Waterways were however conspicuously not covered by the CROW Act.
The report contrasts the restrictions in England & Wales with the situation elsewhere in Europe, particularly Scotland where the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003 did address the issue of access to and along rivers and inland waterways. The report also comments on the effectiveness of the current arrangements and notes that “There are over 41,000 miles of rivers with no access meaning only 4% of linear rivers in England and Wales can be accessed for water recreation.” and “Over the last 40 years only 504 miles of additional access has been added through voluntary agreements and many of the agreements are for only one day per year.” The report ends with the recommendation that;-
“DEFRA should introduce a statutory right of access in England and Wales for unpowered craft to inland water for recreational purposes.
This system of rights and responsibilities should be based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”
This would represent a change of policy for DEFRA who maintain that Voluntary Access Agreements are the way forward and no change in legislation is required. Local agreement on how a right of responsible access can be exercised, while accommodating rights of other users and the needs of wildlife and the environment, are necessary but they can only be achieved on the basis of equitable rights and responsibilities for all as recommended by the report.
Please consider the report and the failure of DEFRAs current policy and then :-
• contact the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson giving your support to the recommendation regarding Access to Rivers in the Red Card to Red Tape report and highlighting this issue as important to your constituents.
• contact Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State, DEFRA and Richard Benyon, Secretary of State for the Environment , indicating your belief that their current stance regarding Voluntary Access Agreements does not represent an effective solution to the agreed objective of extending access to our rivers and asking them to meet with Hugh Robertson and the Sport and Recreation Alliance to discuss their recommendation for improving access to inland water as recommended in 'Red Card to Red Tape'
Thank you for your help.
Personalised Letter e-mail
If you are able to personalise your letter/email there are a number of samples bellow which may serve as inspiration. Follow the step by step guide:-
• Identify your MP by entering your post code on www.ukparliament.uk
• Click on your MPs name to get their full profile, which will show their email address and their Political Interests.
• The general theme of all letters will be similar (i.e. Drawing their attention to the lack of clarity re access to our rivers and contrasting this with the situation in almost every other country in the world especially Scotland) but there are several areas where you can personalise the content to your own experience and their interests. E.g. many MPs list “Health” as among their Parliamentary Interests so a paragraph like• If they are interested in “Small Businesses” talk about the benefits on this area.“Canoeing is a low impact, healthy sport suitable for all age groups and many disabled people. It is already enjoyed by an estimated 1,000,000 people every year. Nearly everyone lives within 2 miles of a canoeable river. Clarification of widespread access to rivers therefore offers a significant contribution to the health of the nation and in these financially constrained times it will cost very little to make it much more widely accessible.”
• Remember that the Lib-Dem manifesto for the 2010 General Election saidIf you are writing to a Liberal Democrat it will do no harm to remind them of this!“We will also increase the general right of access to the countryside, along the lines of the model introduced by Liberal Democrats in Scotland.”
Tell them that this is entirely in line with the Red Card to Red Tape recommendation and ask if this has their personal support.
• Ask your MP to write to the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson to highlight the access recommendation within Red Card to Red Tape as important to their constituents.
• Caroline Spelman (DEFRA Secretary of State) shows little sympathy for access issues and will not meet with the Sport & Recreation Alliance to discuss their report so ask your MP to write to Caroline Spelman to ask her to meet with the Sport and Recreation Alliance to discuss issues on improving access to inland water as recommended in 'Red Card to Red Tape'.
• Many MPs will forward your letter to the offices of the Ministers concerned (Hugh Robertson - Sports Minister, Caroline Spelman (DEFRA Secretary of State) and Richard Benyon - Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries) before replying but you should also stress that you would like to know their personal stance on the issue and whether you, as their constituent, can count on their support in ensuring that the recommendation is implemented
• Don’t just copy someone else’s letter. You know how you feel when you receive a standard letter and they will feel the same. It is important to describe the access problem on a river within the MP's constituency.
• There are many ideas contained in the sample letters that follow. Use these ideas to construct your own letter.
• Most importantly, when you get a reply post it here so that we can gauge the level of support from your MP. And if you feel you are just being fed the party line, write again stressing that it is his/her personal commitment (as your MP ) to the implementation of this recommendation as your MP that are seeking.
Unless you are perfectly happy with the current access situation and want it to stay this way forever, we have no positive alternative but to do what we can to change it. Your letter will contribute to growing pressure on Parliament to end the current stalemate.
Please do your bit now!
The Sport and Recreation Alliance recently launched its review of regulatory burdens on sports clubs, entitled “Red Card to Red Tape”, commissioned by DCMS. The review recommends that DEFRA introduce a statutory right of access to rivers in England and Wales for canoes and kayaks. You can read the report here: http://www.sportandrecreation.org.uk...w%20res%29.pdf (see page 199).
This affects me directly because I live less than one mile from the River Mole, a beautiful Surrey river, yet I am unable to enjoy it as a canoeist without fear of being taken to court for trespass. In Scotland and nearly every other country in the world I would be able to share this natural resource with other river users in a responsible and environmentally sound way.
Canoeing and Kayaking is enjoyed by more than 1,000,000 people, providing a healthy outdoor activity for young people, families and older people. We have 41,000 miles of rivers suitable for canoeing, but only 2% - 4% of our rivers are available to us. I hope you see the benefits of providing a general right of recreational access to rivers within a sustainable and responsible framework such as works so well in Scotland. This would be a very positive step, providing benefits to all who enjoy the countryside.
I ask you to support this campaign to give access to the River Mole and other rivers. I am happy to provide you with further information, and would be happy to take you for a paddle on the Mole in the limited area where access is available.
Will you please:
1. Advise me of your position on this issue,
2. Write to the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson to highlight this access recommendation as important to your constituents,
3. Write to the DEFRA Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman to ask her to meet with the Sport and Recreation Alliance to discuss issues on improving access to
inland water as recommended in 'Red Card to Red Tape'.
Your sincerely”I write to you to bring to your attention the fact that only 4% of English inland waterways have undisputed access for canoeists. Apart from England and Wales, other countries provide for shared responsible use of rivers by both canoeists and anglers and in my personal experience such arrangements work well. I understand this issue affects more 2,000,000 canoeists in the UK.
Recent work by the Rev Douglas Caffyn ( www.caffynonrivers.co.uk) indicates that the right to paddle exists on many rivers hereto thought by many to be private.
There have been many attempts over the years to negotiate voluntary access agreements between canoeists, anglers and land owners. This strategy has met with very little success. I believe this is because there is no benefit to land owners to give up their assumed, though legally suspect, right to control access to the water itself.
Responsible access to our wonderful rivers and lakes would bring an immediate and direct benefit to the health, wellbeing and enjoyment of our fellow citizens, particularly young people.
My local river is the Mole. It is about 1 mile from my house. If I, or other Horley residents canoe on it, we risk prosecution from the riparian owners, and abuse, threats of violence and actual violence from anglers.
We seek only to gain access to the Mole from a public place, to paddle responsibly through beautiful Surrey countryside, showing respect to the needs of anglers, and to exit from another public place. Research shows that canoeing is not harmful to fish or any other aspect of the environment.
There are some parts of the Mole, further North (part of the 4%), where access is not disputed. It might would be my pleasure to take you on a canoe trip there, so you could appreciate the joy of our wonderful river landscape.
Please advise me of your position on this issue and communicate my concerns to Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Natural Environment and Fisheries), Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and Hugh Robertsson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Sport and the Olympics) and Sir Peter Bottomley MP.As a canoeist I am finding that access to English and Welsh rivers is being increasingly denied.
Many of our countries rivers are considered by anglers and riparian's to be their exclusive property.
Canoeing and kayaking is a sport or activity that does no damage and leaves no trace of its passing. Yet anglers and riparians wish to exclude us at all times.
Our local River Ribble is just one of many where a canoeist can encounter abuse and intimidation on many occasions.
The latest issue against canoeing and kayaking is that the Welsh Angling Clubs are preparing to sue canoeists.
This could of course go in our favour but it may not.
The right to navigate a river in an unpowered craft is an ancient right and no law has been passed to remove this right.
The suggestion by MP's that voluntary agreements is the way forward is ludicrous, they didn't work for ramblers in their 100 year struggle.
We need the law on our side and our rights to be included in CROW Act.Hello, I would like to bring to your attention the issue of legal
access to the UK's Rivers and water ways for recreational use.
I am a qualified British Canoe Union Paddle sports coach, Keen canoeist
and wild swimmer. Consequently, I like to be able to make use of our
natural resources for the purposes of pursuing my profession and
Did you know that only 2% of the UK's waterways are open to public
Did you know that by allowing your children to paddle in one of 98% of
the UK's streams, rivers, lakes and ponds that they are committing
tress pass, and by encouraging them to do so you are committing the
more serious offence of incitement to tress pass?
While the majority of man made waterways are indeed open to public use,
canals offer little in the way challenge, natural beauty and can even
be more dangerous to use on owing to man made weirs and other hazards.
I am regularly threatened by land owners and anglers, have had stones
thrown at me, fishing tackle cast at me and my group and have even been
threatened to have my boat 'shot out from under me', merely for
floating silently down a river.
There are estimated to be over one million recreational paddlers in the
UK, all of who appear to be committing a crime in pursuit of their
We wish to have free and open access to out natural waterways, nothing
It has been investigated and proven that canoeing has no detrimental
effect on the environment or ecosystem. No danger or disturbance to
wildlife, and we leave no trace as we pass through.
I, and many others, would appreciate your assistance in turning this
absurd situation around.
Here is a link to an Environment Agency report on the effects of
canoeing to fish stocks (which you may find is the most common reason
cited by land owners to denying public access)
In short, the report concludes that there is no detrimental effect to
fish stocks as a consequence of canoeing on a river.
Canoeing is one of the oldest forms of transport known to man, is
environmentally friendly, an Olympic sport, fosters a sense of
achievement and teamwork to thousands of children and vulnerable adults
and is a generally wholesome activity that the vast majority of land
owners alongside rivers are seeking to continue to prevent access to.
Please helpRIGHT OF FREE NAVIGATION IN ENGLAND & WALES
We last communicated on this subject in October 2005 and I thank you for your efforts in getting answers from various ministers at the time.
Under discussion was extension of the CROW act (2000) to include rivers, or to at least clarify the current legal situation.
At the time an EDM was also being proposed.
It was heartening to see the Lib Deb 2010 manifesto pledge:
The beauty of Britain’s natural landscape is vital to the quality of life of those who live there and to visitors.
Liberal Democrats will change the way the environment is protected so everyone has fair access to clean water, clean air, and open spaces.
We’re the only party that takes seriously the responsibility of protecting our natural inheritance and ensuring access for all.
Liberal Democrats will:
• Increase the general right of access to the countryside, along the
lines of the model introduced by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland
May I now draw your attention to some recently published work by the Reverend Douglas Caffyn for his doctoral thesis:
His extensive research has shown that although navigation on our rivers was accepted as common law for centuries, this right has erroneously been eroded by incorrect interpretation.
In addition, there are various statutes of navigation still on our country's law books, yet the public receive abuse from riparian owners or fishermen if they decide to exercise their rights to use the river.
As an active canoeist, I still look forward to the day when the law is clarified, and all river users can again enjoy our heritage freely and responsibly.
Hopefully Rev Caffyn's work may move that day one step closer.As one of your constituents and a recreational canoeist I am writing to
draw your attention to the woeful lack of public access to inland
waterways in England and Wales and to seek your support for a change in
the law to clarify the position and establish parity with the situation
in Scotland ( Land Reform Act (2003)) , the rest of Europe and the
English speaking world.
Prior to 1830 there was a generally accepted right of public access to
all rivers that were physically navigable. This right had existed
since time immemorial and was enshrined in Magna Carta. The Rev
Douglas Caffyn has researched the subject extensively and has produced
overwhelming evidence (seehttp://www.caffynonrivers.co.uk/) to support
the view that the general right of access to inland waterways still
exists beyond the 3-4 % of waterways where there is legally defined
access via Navigation Acts etc.
Unfortunately there is also a widely held view among riparian
landowners that rivers are subject to property rights which give them
the right to control access along rivers. This leads to conflict with
and aggression against canoeists and other waterway users seeking only
to pursue a peaceful pastime in a reasonable and responsible way.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) did an excellent job of
clarifying public rights of way over land but unfortunately reference
to inland water which would have provided equal clarity for our rivers
was removed from the Bill at a late stage leading to today’s ongoing
lack of clarity.
I write to ask you to clarify your own position on this subject and to
ask for your active support in changing the law to give clarity of
access as is the norm virtually everywhere except England & Wales.
As a canoeist, I have been very surprised by the confusion that exists
in England when it comes to free access to what is without doubt a
fantastic public resource. I am finding that access to English and
Welsh rivers is being increasingly denied.
In Scotland I can, as I understand it, paddle pretty much anywhere I
want subject to minimal regulation.
As a canoeist , any of our countries rivers are considered by anglers
and riparian's to be their exclusive property.
Canoeing and kayaking is a sport or activity that does no damage and
leaves no trace of its passing. Yet anglers and riparians wish to
exclude us at all times.
The right to navigate a river in an unpowered craft is an ancient right
and no law has been passed to remove this right.
The suggestion by MP's that voluntary agreements is the way forward is
ludicrous, they didn't work for ramblers in their 100 year struggle.
We need the law on our side and our rights to be included in CROW Act.
Please advise me of your position on this issue and communicate my
concerns to Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
(Natural Environment and Fisheries), Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State
for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Hugh Robertson, Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State (Sport and the Olympics) and Sir Peter
I am 48 years old with a love of the outdoors, I am neither a militant,
nor a trouble causer, yet in one year of enjoying a peaceful healthy
outdoor pursuit with my family I have experienced the above.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on this matter and extend the
invitation for you to experience a canoe paddle for yourself should you
be so inclined.___________________
Progress to date
These are the MPs that have already been written to (the more letters an MP receives, the better):-
Sam Gyimah, East Surrey, (Dougdew99)
John Pugh, Southport,(DougoutCanoe)
Zac Goldsmith,Richmond Park ,(Nakedfriremaker)
Simon Hughes, North Southwark & Bermondsey (Jon Wood)
Pauline Latham, Mid Derbyshire, (Brygun)
Dan Byles, North Warwickshire, (Ratty)
Geoffrey Cox,Torrige & west Devon ,(Paul Smith)
Angela Smith, Stocksbridge & Peniston, (Pete in the Peak)
James Paice, South EastCambridgeshire, (SamB)
Phillip Lee, Bracknell , (KeithD)
Rhodri Thomas,Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, (Bob Andrews)
Ester Mcvey,Wirral West,(Quicky)
Ian Wright, Hartlepool, (MickyFinn)
Guy Opperman, Hexham, (Sundowner)
Phil Wilson, Sedgefield, (Sonar)
Jonathan Lord, Woking (Mal Grey)
Megg Munn, Sheffield Heeley (pocketdave)
Stephen Dorrell MP, Charnwood, (highland spring)
David Cameron, West Oxfordshire (Bootstrap Bob)
Harriett Baldwin, West Worcestershire (SimonMW)
Jonathan Djanogly, Huntingdon, (Blinky)
Helen Grant, Maidstone and The Weald, (elvys)
Mark Hoban, Fareham, (markpfc)
Marcus Jones, Nuneaton, (Ratty)
Liz Kendall, Leicester West, (Izzetafox)
Kerry McCarthy, Bristol East, (chrism4444)
Hugo Swire, East Devon, (bhofmann)
Edward Vaizey, Wantage, (AllenCanoe)
Iain Wright, Hartlepool, (MickyFinn)
Owen Paterson, North Shropshire, (ChasDWarren)
Bernard Jenkins, North Essex, (Zoe123)
Tony Cunningham, Workington, (The Cumbrian)
David Nuttall, Bury North, (JT531)
Geoffery Robinson, Coventry North West, (no1 photographer)
Harriet Baldwin, West Worcestershire, SimonMW
Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Wayne
Let me know if I've missed anyone.
Thanks for your efforts, guys!