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Thread: Public Staithes on The Norfolk & Suffolk Broads (implications elsewhere?)

  1. #1
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    Default Public Staithes on The Norfolk & Suffolk Broads (implications elsewhere?)

    Prof Tom Williamson & his team at the University of East Anglia have just completed a study of the history & status of staithes (landing places) on the Broads. This was paid for by the Broads Authority and should be published by them shortly. The Prof & his team are historians, noit lawyers.

    The essence of his report is:
    a) The documentation and justification for a staithe varies - some are defined in Enclosure Acts, some merely by custom & practice, but that custom & practice tends to be documented in things like tithe maps and the 1910 Finance Act maps (which were drawn for the Valuation Office)
    b) In many cases, a staithe is part of the highway that serves it and is documented as such - often as simply a widening of the highway land where is meets a navigable river.
    c) The right to use a piece of land as a staithe - ie the right to tranship goods between highway and navigable water - is independent of the ownership of the land, similar to the right to use a public footpath across someone's land. It can be extinguished by Act of Parliament, or by impracticability e.g closure of the piece of highway serving the staithe or silting up of the watercourse so it is no longer navigable, but otherwise seems to exist in perpetuity.
    d) The right however may be restricted e.g. by an Enclosure Act that created the staithe, to certain persons e.g. "residents of the parish" in which the staithe is.
    e) In general however, he has been able to find evidence of the existence of a staithe at most, if not all, points where a highway meets a navigable waterway.

    He also expects that this will be true across England.

    As a historian, not as a lawyer, he is of the opinion that navigable waterways are like highways - "Once a highway, always a highway", which has implications for a large number of rivers across England.

    As far as the Broads Authority is concerned, it is likely that what they wanted to know is who owns the staithes (and who is responsible for their upkeep i.e preferably not the BA!), whether there are staithes that can be brought back into use for tourism, and whether there are rights they can exploit to increase the number of temporary moorings across the Broads. (In this regard remember that rights may be restricted to certain classes of people. The BA may not have the answers they were hoping for.) Williamson also commented that people in Norfolk were quite good at "acquiring" bits of land that were not in use, and that some current owners might be quite surprised to find there was a right to tranship goods across parts of their gardens!

    From a canoeing viewpoint however, the wider implications of persistence of navigation rights across England ("Once a highway, always a highway") are of interest, although he did point out that that is set to change in 2025, when unregistered rights of way will cease to exist. (Under the CROW Act??)

    Simon

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishwics View Post
    From a canoeing viewpoint however, the wider implications of persistence of navigation rights across England ("Once a highway, always a highway") are of interest, although he did point out that that is set to change in 2025, when unregistered rights of way will cease to exist. (Under the CROW Act??)
    Simon
    Rights of way over water are legally distinct from rights of way on land. A way on land depends on contact with and use of the soil, which is capable of ownership. While a waterway is contained by the banks and bed of the river, navigation depends use of the flowing water, without the need for contact with the banks or bed. Flowing water is res nullis i.e. not capable of ownership (or dedication). You can find this quoted by the law lords in the court of appeal in the case of Yorkshire Derwent Trust V Brotherton 1992 when they decided you can't apply The 1932 rights of way act to a waterway. I imagine a similar argument applies to the CROW act because it applies to land, and the limitation on rights of way needs to be checked to see if it includes rights of way over water.
    Brevan,
    1664 - a great year for river access
    Romsey, Hampshire
    Twitter: BrevanM
    Follow my blog at http://riveraccessrights.blogspot.com/

  3. #3

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    I wonder if anyone has sent that to BC, or if BC are actually aware of that report?

    If they are, I wonder how they plan to use it?

    Do you have a link to the report?

  4. #4

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    Hope you dont mind, but i will link this page to the BC facebook, just to guide them to the research in case they were not yet aware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike A View Post
    I wonder if anyone has sent that to BC, or if BC are actually aware of that report?

    If they are, I wonder how they plan to use it?

    Do you have a link to the report?
    We weren't, but now are! I know the team involved with all access matters at the Broads well, so am picking this up. It's exactly the kind of new research we will be wanting to capture and expand upon in our new 'Rivers Database'.

    Chris - chris.page@britishcanoeing.org.uk

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike A View Post
    Do you have a link to the report?
    Since you say the report "should be published by them shortly" I assume it's not available now.
    Keith

  7. #7
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    As far as I can tell (not being a member of any of the Broads Authority Committees) it's not yet published, although it was presented to the Authority in the middle of last year. Properly it would be under the aegis of the Navigation Committee.

    Simon

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