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Thread: A personalised reply from Richard Benyon

  1. #1
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    Default A personalised reply from Richard Benyon

    My local MP, Harriet Baldwin, promised me that she would forward my letter to the relevant people and get back to me when she had received a reply. She has followed through on her word, and today I received a detailed letter from Richard Benyon about the matter. The crux of the message is the same as we have been hearing before, but it does go into more detail as to his train of thought. I have to go out in a few minutes so I haven't got time to copy the letter here yet, But I will do so when I get back later.

  2. #2
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    From Richard Benyon MP:
    Access is a devolved issue, and the Welsh Assembly Government has responsibility in Wales.

    We are aware that the use of rivers for canoeists and other non-powered craft is an issue in which many people and organisations are interested. More than a quarter of our major river and canal network is available for canoeing and 40%, 1,900km, of that available network is within 15km of an urban area and, consequently, accessible to people.

    Our decisions around what access we may promote are made using our "Access Policy" which states "We will promote sustainable increased access where it will not adversely impact on existing uses and users, or the economic and conservation value of the site, and associated area, now or in the future. Subject to resources, we will encourage access where managed solutions can be found to remove adverse impacts."

    We consider that voluntary agreements are the best way to deliver the greatest benefits for all within this policy. Surveys show that over one million people canoe or kayak each year. Many of these are less experienced, casual users who require easy rivers, and like well managed trails, with good information provision. We have shown that this can best be achieved through agreement.

    The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, created rights of access to most land and water in Scotland. This is often used as an example of what could be achieved with legislation, but Scotland is different to England. Population density in England is over 380 people per square kilometer, and in Scotland it is just 65. This population density difference is, and would be, reflected in the level of use that the rivers are subject to, and on the number of landowners affected. The existing legal framework in Scotland was very different to that in England, in particular the attitude taken by Scots law to access to land (including rivers and lakes) without express permission, was already much more liberal than that of the law of trespass in England.

    English rivers have been heavily used by industry over time, and this use has created structures in and beside rivers. This management and associated structures create significant health and safety risks for users, and associated liability for those who own them. Scottish rivers are less managed, and contain far fewer hazardous structures.

    Health and Safety management is a significant issue on the rivers of England because of the manmade and natural features they contain. At some sites, the manmade structures in and around the river, such as weirs, culverts and walls, mean that they are not places people should be encouraged to go. There are examples of high weirs surrounded by tall brick walls where relatively unmanageable risks are created.

    Our pilot canoe access agreements were able to address these management issues within the agreement process. This means that structures have been altered and their management changed to make them safer for river users, and access and egress points are identified and managed to reduce impacts. Also, simple things like car parking and information boards were created to support the access.

    In some instances the ecology of the rivers needs to be protected. This is best done through management, via agreements, where access can be restricted when rivers are in low flow, during fish spawning seasons and when protected species are identified.

    We believe that agreements allow sites specific issues associated with competing uses, ecological value and health and safety to be addressed. Management measures can then be put into place, creating safer rivers, managing use to create the best for all, and raising awareness of important ecological sites, as well as restricting access to them when required.
    I am now composing my response.

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    There is nothing wrong with location specific issues being resolved by agreement. What is wrong is the presumption that the landowner has all the rights and the public (canoeists in this case) have none.

    The point he makes about population density in England is of course true .... but it's as true for the countryside in general or the roads (for example) yet the public have broadly similar rights in these cases as exist in Scotland without dire consequences.
    Keith

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    The point he makes about population density in England is of course true .... but it's as true for the countryside in general or the roads (for example) yet the public have broadly similar rights in these cases as exist in Scotland without dire consequences.
    A point I will be making is that many English canoeists and kayakers go to Scotland because they cannot carry out their activity in England, and that many of those already go on our rivers regardless of access agreements. As a result the theory that if the rivers were opened up they would be overrun doesn't apply, because they are already being used, albeit under the grey cloud of an unclarified, or non existent presumed law.

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    Default P,f,l,o,p

    Well, we do seem to have got the attention of Richard Benyon, and he makes some interesting points, with regards population density,and the approximate number of paddlers in the country. He also detaches his office from any law change with regards to river access in Wales and Scotland, so he has would appear to me to be setting out his case, should Wales follow Scotland, that we canoeists will still have to go in hope, cap in hand to the land owners, to request access. Ask him again, explaining that access agreements have never worked.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
    Well, we do seem to have got the attention of Richard Benyon, and he makes some interesting points,.....
    Am I being cynical, but I would suspect that you write to an MP, they go to Defra, they go to the EA who draft the response ?? As such, you will get the same / consistent message whenever you write to the government(s).

    Paul

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    Not sure. I did cut out the part that apologised for the delay in replying to my query. Though the message is overall the same, it does tend to go into more detail than the usual photocopied Defra response.

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    Default P,f,l,o,p

    Quote Originally Posted by bin_man View Post
    Am I being cynical, but I would suspect that you write to an MP, they go to Defra, they go to the EA who draft the response ?? As such, you will get the same / consistent message whenever you write to the government(s).

    Paul

    This response is not the same as the one I got, it is more personnel, and there is a bit of thought in it. I would say it is better than a stock answer, but the situation remains the same, 'access denied'.

    This will take time, to get what we want may require being able to except that some contested waterways are at times not open to us,due to environmental issues.

    I personally do not have a problem with this, its the total exclusion for the sake of one minority interest [fly fishing] that I oppose.

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    When will the government, DEFRA and EA enter the real world and see what we see.

    The obstructions put forward by landowners and fisheries are not conducive to agreements unless we agree, "to go away and stay away".

    Canals and slow moving rivers are ok for beginners or competitive sprint or marathon paddlers. Access to wild rivers for recreation is as important as rambling the hills and fells.

    The dangers stated of industrialised areas and the modifications of rivers is a valid comment but only applies to lowland rivers of little character.

    An example of a "Canoe Trail" that is considered to be a success is the River Mersey. The Mersey though was basically uncontested water, NOBODY ELSE WANTED IT from the fisheries world. I admit it has some waves and ripples to play on but the water quality is very poor. As one paddles along the canoe trail, rubbish is strewn on the banks, trees and other obstructions. At every point of disturbed water there is a distinct smell of sewage works deodoriser, a chemical put into their outflow to hide the real smells. I don't know how many sewage plants feed into the Mersey but several million people contribute.

    From an aesthetics point of view, paddling along the River Mersey Canoe Trail is without a view of the surrounding area because the flood banks are very high. One last point, I canoed the Trail a year or 2 ago. My experience reinforced my opinion of the river. I exited the river at Sale Water Park only to find notices giving the reasons for the closure of public access to the Sale Water Park. The notices pointed out that due to recent flooding when the Mersey overflowed into the lake that pollution levels were now too high for safe use of the lake!

    This is an example of an access agreement!!!

    Need I say any more,

    Doug
    When there's trouble on shore, there's peace on the wave,
    Afloat in the White Canoe.
    Alan Sullivan


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    Not buying it .

    Playing the 'Health and Safety' card when the govt are clearly on the anti H&S campaign is a bit fishy, maybe river banks are dangerous for others as well eg. anglers ? As for 'environmental reasons' lack of rain maybe a good reason but general unspecified environmental reasons, err no .

    Paul

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    Default Not so Personal Reply

    Sorry Simon but your letter is not a personal reply.
    Im affraid its another one of Defras copy paste jobs.
    My MP Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) has just forwarded a copy that he recieved.

    On the bright side if there is one, it saved my typing it all out.
    Ratty (Russ)

    I know only that what is moral is you feel good after. What is immoral is what you feel bad after.
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    Yes that isn't personalised, I got a very similar one with paragraphs in a different order but the same content.
    --
    Andy

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMW View Post
    Not sure. I did cut out the part that apologised for the delay in replying to my query. Though the message is overall the same, it does tend to go into more detail than the usual photocopied Defra response.
    Yes, I had the apology first paragraph as well. Although it looks like I also had 1 or 2 other paragraphs....I think each paragraph is a standard one, it's just a matter of what order and how many of the paragraphs they put in depending on what your original letter said.

    I was impressed with a 2 page personal letter which had my name and address pasted into the apology paragraph but having read yours I'm not so impressed now but it's obvious that some intern has been busy this week putting letters together
    --
    Andy

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    I received a very similar letter making exactly the same points. shame I had hoped that we were making progress and the letter addressed my comments.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

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    Default Arrogant contempt of politicians for paddling constituents is nothing new

    The use of 'circulars' with the pretence of a personal response is unfortunately nothing new. In 2009 a number of paddlers wrote to their MP's requesting support for EDM 1577 and it was subsequently revealed that the same generic text was used in multiple replies.

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    Default Access agreements dead on the starting blocks

    Quote Originally Posted by SimonMW View Post
    From Richard Benyon MP:

    We consider that voluntary agreements are the best way to deliver the greatest benefits for all within this policy.
    Apologies that this post is rather long-winded, but here's an example to take back to MPs of landed fisheries interests who refused to even discuss access on water with a local statutory body (so what hope would individuals or clubs have).

    Hampshire County Council has a statutory requirement to produce a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP), and have therefore addressed this in a county-wide Countryside Access Plan (CAP) for 2008-13. In addition to the CAP County Overview document, there are seven regional CAPs.

    T
    he Test and Itchen CAP 2008-2013 contains a section titled "Issue 7 - There is a demand for more access to, along and on the waterways of the area; landowners and managers are concerned about how this would affect conservation and fishing" and within this section it is stated that there is

    "an unmet demand for access to the Rivers Test and Itchen by canoeand other manually-propelled craft. While there is access for canoes and other small craft along the coast and river estuaries in the south of the county, there are currently only about 3 miles ofinland waterways that are publicly accessible in the whole of Hampshire.Virtually none of this is in the Test and Itchen area, although the Rivers Testand Itchen are among the few inland watercourses in the county that arenavigable."


    The Hampshire Countryside Access Forum (HCAF) has been established along national guidelines - "legally, the group is the statutory Local Access Forum which each county council, unitary council and national park authority must establishand support" - to represent the diverse interests of all interests in this arena, and to seek grounds for mutual compromise.

    Following a meeting in April 2009 a sub-group of the HCAF was established to look at whether the Forum should report on 'Access on Water', and in July 2009 it duly concluded that such a role was appropriate, noting "Negotiations to establish what access might be considered should take place between relevant parties. It is suggested that initially this should be between the BCU and The Test and Itchen Association, with an independent chair. Other parties (e.g. Environment Agency, Natural England, Wildlife Trust, Outdoor Swimming Society and riparian landowners) should be informed of the negotiations."

    The sub-group continued to meet throughout the remainder of 2009, and in February 2010 they had an "audience" with Executive Director Tom Davies representing the T&IA. He agreed to take the findings of the meeting to the T&IA board meeting to be held on 18th March. By April it was reported that the T&IA was forming its own sub-committee to look at the issue, and HCAF had requested at least an indication of its willingness to discuss water access further.

    By July 2010 HCAF had had their answer from the Test and Itchen Association. In what is understood to be a tersely worded letter, the Association stated that "due to reasons ‘Forum members will by now be only too aware of’the Association is not in a position to enter into such negotiations."

    With the door slammed firmly shut in their faces, the HCAF could only registeri ts "disappointment" at this "regrettable" stance, and conclude that "access on the Test and Itchen should not be pursued at this time."

    Full text with references here.

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    The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was a great breakthrough for all outdoor enthusiasts. Please do not allow yourselves for one second to think that a change in the law is the end of it, and that you can happily paddle, walk, cycle, climb etc etc till you're heart's content. Eight years on, we still have individuals and associations that prefer to ignore, twist and defy this law.
    Just yesterday my wife and I were ejected from a loch by a representative of the Scottish Wildlife Trust on the grounds that Loch of Lowes is an SSSI.
    Strangely, many commercial trout fisheries have SSSI status, but still the management are allowed to have boats on them for the purpose of fishing, and also introduce non native species ie; rainbow trout of various types, Canadian lake trout, grass carp etc etc.
    Just a few weeks ago we were very agressively asked by two keepers to leave a loch (Loch Lee) because it was a public water supply, and if we should defacate or urinate this would pollute the water. I asked where the salmon anglers, deerstalkers, gamekeepers and their dogs, deer, birds and sheep went for a dump or a wee as I could'nt see any public toilets around. Made no difference, they still have the power to intimidate, and the local bobby is more than likely in with the lord or laird.
    Long fight ahead of you guy's, I wish you every success.
    WW

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyperion View Post
    Well, we do seem to have got the attention of Richard Benyon, and he makes some interesting points,
    Oh no he doesn't, these are exactly the same points being made by DEFRA under the last government, I guess the basic contents are some 5 years old.

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    Typical bullshit we'd expect from the "establishment". When will they realise, or more likeley "accept" that the Scottish way works! I find the access situation for kayaking & canoing disgraceful and I for one will continiue to paddle where ever I see fit, STUFF EM!!!!

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    May I refer you back to the Red Card to Red Tape Sport and Alliance review (formally CCPR) where one of the things is to enable to experience sport without undue health and safety regulations! THE BMC access charter also states that

    9 Freedom to takes risks
    The freedom to take risks and personal
    responsibility for your own safety is an integral
    part of recreation and adventure sport and must
    be upheld.

    8 Understand personal risk in outdoor
    recreation and occupiers liability
    It is essential that Government policy initiatives
    are based on the need to secure people’s sense
    of freedom and adventure, rather than imposing
    restrictions for fear of liability. Visitors should
    exercise responsibility for themselves, as set out
    in the BMC’s participation statement

  21. #21

    Default Letter from Richard Benyon

    I let you know when I had emailed my MP (Jacob Rees Mogg). I got a reply today which is the same as Simon MW as posted above except for the following paragraphs at the end of the letter:

    Finally, regarding the report 'Red Card to Red Tape' which was commissioned by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, and will feed into the Government's wider review of regulation being conducted by the Cabinet Office. The report recommends 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".

    Although the report was commissioned by a Government Department it does not constitute Government policy. The reasons why we feel The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (of which the Scottish Access Code is an integral part) would not be the correct method for increasing access in England are given above.

    Defra is the Department which has policy responsibility for access issues in England and we were not consulted during the review or shown a draft copy of the report. The Welsh Assembly Government carried out a full consultation exercise in 2010 in regard to the situation in Wales and also rejected using the Scottish Access Code in Wales, again for the reasons outlined above.

    Mr Rees Mogg also sent our email to Hugh Robertson who forwarded it to Richard Benyon.

  22. #22
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    Default standard letter

    This is obviously a stock response, most probably generated because our access campaign has resulted in many more enquiries to defra and Mr Benyon from MPs around the country, and we have successfully rubbished all the previous responses.
    We now (I think) need to carefully consider this letter and argue each point so as to make them meaningless.
    I think we should be pleased that all our original letters got Defras attention - we have obviously concerned them enough to make them notice us and take action. Keep up the good work

    Sam

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    Default reply from Both my MEP and R Benyon

    Our Ref: FH/JF

    30 June 2011


    Dear ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    I have now received a reply from Richard Benyon MP, regarding the issue of access to rivers of non-powered craft in England. A copy is attached for your information.

    The Minister writes that more than a quarter of the river and canal network in the UK is available for canoeing and 40% of that network is within 15km of an urban area and accessible to people.

    The Minister goes on to explain that the Government decide what access they may promote using their “Access Policy”. The Government consider that voluntary agreements are the best way to deliver the greatest benefits for all within this policy.

    Mr Benyon says that surveys show that over one million people canoe or kayak each year and many of these people are inexperienced or casual users who require easy rivers, managed trails and the availability of information. He says that this is best achieved through voluntary agreements which also allow management measures to be put in place on sites. This leads to safer rivers and increased awareness of important ecological sites.

    I hope that voluntary agreements lead to good access for canoeists as the Government intends, but if this is not the case I believe that Ministers should revisit the issue.

    I hope this helps.

    Yours sincerely



    Fiona Hall MEP




    From Richard Benyon MP Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries


    Thank you for your letter of 10 th May on behalf of your constituent,

    , about access to rivers for non-powered craft. I am
    sorry for the delay in replying, and can only reply in respect of England. Access is a devolved issue, and the Welsh Assembly Government has responsibility in Wales.

    We are aware that the use of rivers for canoeists and other non-powered craft is an issue in which many people and organisations are interested. More than a quarter of our major river and canal network is available for canoeing, and 40%, 1,900km, of that available network is within 15km of an urban area and, consequently, accessible to people.
    Our decisions around what access we may promote are made using our
    "Access Policy"

    which states "We will promote sustainable increased access where it will not adversely impact on existing uses and users, or the economic and conservation value of the site, and
    associated area, now or in the future.

    Subject to resources, we will encourage access where managed solutions can be found to remove adverse impacts,"

    We consider that voluntary agreements are the best way to deliver the greatest benefits for all within this policy. Surveys show that over one million people canoe or kayak each year.

    Many of these are less experienced, casual users who require easy rivers and like well managed trails with good information provision.
    We have shown that this can best be achieved through agreement.

    Agreements also allow sites specific issues associated with competing uses, ecological value and health and safety to be addressed. Management measures can then be put in
    place, creating safer rivers, managing use to create the best for all, and raising awareness
    of important ecological sites, as well as restricting access to them when required.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sonar View Post
    The Minister writes that more than a quarter of the river and canal network in the UK is available for canoeing and 40% of that network is within 15km of an urban area and accessible to people.
    I'm a wee bit confused here. Does the minister mean "more than a quarter of the river and canal network in the UK", or "more than a quarter of the river and canal network in England? Because at a guess I'd reckon that Scotland has a good quarter of the rivers and canals in the UK.

    This means you guys have bugger all rivers and canals available for canoeing! Put this to the minister, oops, sorry about that, my mistake, access granted, simples

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    I have just recieved a very similar repl from Mr Benyon via my local MP (Brandon Lewis). It is a bit disappointing that they are all just toeing the same line with not a single individual addition. I shall reply to my MPs reply and point out that the Benyon letter is just a formulaic response and not necessarily a fair representation of reality.

    Bob
    Bob

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    And to their hieghts aspire.

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    i got the same reply. I've asked my MP to ask the Minister;

    1. Whether he accepts the commonly held view that there are 40,000 mile of canoeable rivers of which 4% are available to us?

    2. How many miles of extra access has been obtained by the Voluntary Access process in the last ten years?

    3. Does he have any evidence that canoeing on a river has any deleterious effect on the river, the fish, the landowners, or the anglers, provided the access is within a responsible environmental framework?

    4. Is there any evidence that such deleterious effect has occurred in Scotland since the law was changed?

    6. Which rivers have structures which create health and safety risks? What percentage of river mileage is affected by such structures?

    7. Does he have any evidence that our rivers have significantly greater health and safety risks than rivers in Europe or North America, where freedom of access is much more widespread than here?

    8. His own web site says that just identifying land owners can take years. Why does he endorse such an impractical scheme?



    The reasons given in his letter are more or less implausible, and indicate that he is clutching at straws. The fundamental question is why does he go to such lengths to protect the supposed interests of anglers and land owners, against the benefits of access to our rivers to all citizens?
    Doug Dew
    "The best is yet to come" My Father


  27. #27
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    This is the reply to my MP that I have just composed in reply to the letter from Mr Benyon that I received.

    I would like to extend my thanks to you for pursuing my enquiry about access to our inland waterways and for obtaining and forwarding a response from the Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. If I may I would like to respond to a number of his statements for which I would be grateful if a response to the specific points I raise may be obtained from him.

    While he does refer to the issue in detail it has come to light that his response is a fairly generic one, and does not address or answer many key concerns that the proponents of open access to water ways have with the policies that DEFRA are pursuing. In addition it also shows that DEFRA simply has not taken on board or understood the real needs and requirements of recreational water users, who include a far more diverse range of people than just canoeists and kayakers.

    With regard to his first point, the Minister states the following, “More than a quarter of our major river and canal network is available for canoeing, and 40%, 1,900km, of that available network is within 15km of an urban area, and, consequently, accessible to people.”

    From other very similarly worded public responses I have seen from DEFRA it appears that they may be taking those figures as UK wide, which would include Scotland. Consequently this would skew the figures somewhat since Scotland has an open access policy and is separate from the situation in England and Wales. Using man made canals in those figures is also misleading since they were built with the sole purpose of navigation and are not being campaigned for with regard to access.

    To suggest that because the canal network is open for navigation that recreational water users should be satisfied is akin to telling the Ramblers that there are many free pavements to walk on in our towns and cities, and therefore access to the wild countryside is not needed. Of all the points that shows DEFRA is failing to understand the issues or requirements of users, this one stands out quite considerably.

    Canals and canalised flatwater rivers such as the River Severn below Stourport do not address the requirements of those who wish to pursue their pastime on wild rivers, with moving, often white water features.

    The Minister made an issue of the health and safety implications of open access on our waterways, citing man mad structures such as weirs and other industrial relics. Such statements do not address what evidence he has to suggest that rivers and England have more health and safety risks from such issues than other similar countries such as Germany, which have open access.

    The Minister also stated, “Surveys show that over one million people canoe or kayak each year. Many of these are less experienced, casual users who require easy rivers, and like well managed trails, with good information provision.”
    This statement may well be true, however it still does not address the needs of those inexperienced boaters who will eventually want to develop their skills and move onto more challenging water. They may well like easy water to begin with, but once they acquire more skill, what then? White water boating has various grades, and it is impossible to teach such skills on flatwater canals and rivers.

    At the core of DEFRAs policy regarding access to inland waterways is the idea that voluntary access agreements are the way forward. In taking such a line they have continuously failed to address the following issues with access agreements.
    Firstly, that voluntary access agreements have been tried for over 60 years without success. This, along with the ill defined legal situation regarding access are the reasons why Canoe Wales and the BCU do not endorse access agreements any longer. They have been proven thoroughly over a very long time not to work, and legally it is dubious as to whether they are even needed at all.

    In 1973 the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Sport and Leisure made the following statement, “The legal question of rights of way over water must be settled. A number of different legal interpretations of this right of way have been referred to in evidence and it is time for these to be resolved.”

    The muddy legal situation is the same now as it was then. Not only have voluntary access agreements been proven outright not to work, including during the much hailed Brighton University study, but they do not add any clarity to the legal position, only serving to muddy the waters and to entrench a view that perhaps does not in fact have any real legal basis. Further, the Minister does not address how access agreements are supposed to work.

    If we take a typical river, there may be a hundred or so different riparian owners and angling associations along a single stretch. The many issues with this include the following.
    1. The resources that are required to negotiate with such a large number of interested parties are huge. This was one of the conclusions of the Brighton report that often gets swept under the carpet. Such resources are well beyond the scope of the individual and most organisations.
    2. The Minister does not address who the agreement will be between. For example the BCU represents less than half of canoeists and kayakers in England and Wales. If an access agreement is made with the BCU, who do not even represent many participants, will it be left to individuals to negotiate their own access? This still leaves the various wild swimmer organisations and individuals to negotiate their own separate access. The resources required for this are almost comical in scale, and yet DEFRA refuses to address these concerns in any shape or form, despite the evidence that they refer to suggesting that access agreements are not practical precisely because of this.
    3. Much of the time the riparian owners cannot be traced, not even by the Land Registry. This issue alone can cause an entire access agreement to fall down. In fact the Minister’s own website states the fact that identifying land owners can take years. Thus it would be interesting to know why he supports a scheme that he clearly knows to be impractical.
    4. If a single riparian land owner or angling association does not wish to negotiate or pulls out of negotiation, again, a whole agreement can fall apart.
    5. If land changes hands then the access agreement must be negotiated all over again.
    6. Often the resulting agreements only give access for a very limited period. For example in one case only allowing canoeing for a couple of hours on one single day of the year. This is clearly not practical.
    7. The entire access agreement relies, literally, on the mood swings of the land owners and angling associations. It only takes one person to decide on a whim that they no longer wish to allow access and once again the whole agreement falls apart.
    Currently recreational users of inland water, which includes a far wider scope than simply canoeists and kayakers, only have open access to less than 4% of available water. Given the massive resources required for even simple access agreements that often finish up with huge restrictions, the impossible task of covering 40,000 more miles of our waterways with such schemes is plain to see and shows very clearly why the policy of DEFRA cannot be taken seriously.

    The Brighton University study for example took two years to negotiate around 20 miles of highly restrictive access. Much of their claimed successes included rivers that already had access agreements in place. The intervention of the study and renegotiation on some rivers in fact resulted in more restrictions being put in place. This not only shows how laboriously difficult access negotiation is, it also shows the shaky ground on which they sit.

    The Minister goes on to refer to the difference in population density in Scotland as a further reason not to allow open access on English rivers. While Scotland sets a very good precedent it is not the only example of how open access can work. Germany for example has a very similar population density to England, and yet they have open access to their rivers without ill effect. Anglers and other recreational users have very good relationships. In fact the majority of other countries in the world have some form of open access on their rivers.

    France is another good example that shows how a compromise can be made. In France canoeing and kayaking and other recreational use of rivers is allowed between 10am in the morning and 6pm in the evening. This works well because the best fishing is early in the morning and in the evening. While personally I think this is still restrictive, it does show how access can be managed in other ways in a clearly defined manner. It must be said that clarity is the key ingredient that is missing from the situation in England.
    In order to see the full extent of the problem I would like to point you towards a developing colour coded map that has been made to show the extent of situation. This map contains the option to turn off manmade canals showing how extensive the issue is. The map can be viewed at www.canoedaysout.com/cgi-bin/grand_output.py

    I would like to add that if recreational water users followed the edicts of the riparian owner, angling associations, and the suggestion from the Minister that navigating down a disputed river constitutes trespass, virtually no canoeing and kayaking would take place in the UK at all. As you will see from the map, virtually all of the natural rivers in England and Wales have disputed access.

    Given that the UK is home to several of the worlds most respected canoe and kayak manufacturers, as well as producing some of the worlds best competitive boaters for events such as the Olympics, I am sure that you will agree that this situation is unsustainable, and unfitting for the 21st century.

    While I found the letter from Minister interesting I would be grateful if you could communicate the concerns and issues I have outlined above to him, and in due time obtain a response from him that addresses each of those key points specifically and directly.

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    Excellent Simon.
    Can I borrrow small junks of your letter and arguements for my next attempt please
    Sam

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    Sam, i do not mind you using some of the issues I raise in my letter. However I would advise against directly copying sentences and paragraphs, lest we fall into the same trap as DEFRA simply sending the same letter out!

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    Looks like I got the same old "personnal" response too although mine came via David Cameron (my local MP) and a covering letter from him.

    I think I may be drafting a response pointing out the flaws.

    Nice reply Simon I may draw on this too for some ideas if you don't mind. Comment noted on not just copy and pasting.
    Bootstrap
    There's no such thing as inclement weather - you're just incorrectly dressed

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    Please, as well as writing back to your MP and Benyon, write one to Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband as well pointing out that in an olympic year next year the worlds press will be on England and canoe access will be discussed with all of them we can find to point out the crazy situation.
    I am making a list of the world media at the Olympics to write to as well as the EU again to see if anything can be done there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quicky View Post
    Please, as well as writing back to your MP and Benyon, write one to Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband as well pointing out that in an olympic year next year the worlds press will be on England and canoe access will be discussed with all of them we can find to point out the crazy situation.
    I am making a list of the world media at the Olympics to write to as well as the EU again to see if anything can be done there.



    Very good idea Quicky, I will set to, and write to this un-holy trinity, [not with a formulaic letter you under stand],setting out the salient points for them to address.

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    For the record, after George Freeman MP doing a great job and kept me informed in the delay of response I got the same response as the OP and letters thereafter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farmer_Fred View Post
    For the record, after George Freeman MP doing a great job and kept me informed in the delay of response I got the same response as the OP and letters thereafter.
    Let's not loose sight of the objective - It's not to find out what Richard Benyon thinks! It's to engage your MP and get him or her to recognise that DEFRA's stance is unrealistic, partisan and is never going to achieve their stated objective of widening access to the rivers of England & Wales
    Last edited by KeithD; 3rd-August-2011 at 08:46 PM.
    Keith

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    I could not agree more, Keith. I have built up a rapport with Mr Freeman and will also write to Mr Benyon in due course.

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