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Thread: Great Ouse - Unlawful Use of EA Logo to Intimidate Paddlers

  1. #1
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    Default Great Ouse - Unlawful Use of EA Logo to Intimidate Paddlers

    Last October, Hippo & I paddled the Great Ouse and blogged it here http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...e-Bedfordshire

    At Sharnbrooke Weir we came across this newly erected sign on the right bank



    As you can see, Sharnbrooke weir is not one to be trifled with



    Having a good regard for the professionalism of the EA, the wording struck me as plain wrong so I emailed the River Inspector as below

    Hello Andy, (Andy Hubble - River Inspector)
    According to the internet you are the river inspector for the Great Ouse and, whilst appreciating that your primary responsibility is the navigation below Kempston I understand a similar issue exists at Kempston Weir.
    I have paddled the Great Ouse from Newport Pagnell down to Bedford a few times over the years but after a couple of years away I noted today that a new sign has appeared on the right hand bank on the footpath over Sharnbrook weir
    I have portaged the weir on both sides over the years and have no problem with land owners protecting their land.
    However, as I noted that the EA logo appears on the sign, I was contacting you to ask the obvious question; 'where is the nearest permitted landing site'?
    Am I right to assume that I am permitted to portage on the left hand bank?
    If not then navigation has effectively been prevented which concerns me greatly. I understand a similar situation exists at Kempston weir which, like Sharnbrook, cannot be shot in a canoe.
    Has the Environment Agency worked with the other agencies to make the Great Ouse the sole fiefdom of fishing interests by excluding canoeists who have a legal right to navigate down the river?
    I look forward to hearing from you or a colleague.

    Now, it has taken many months to get to speak to the right person within the EA so I won't paste all the correspondence except for the last two responses I have had from Mike Bodell.

    Dear Mr Whitehouse
    I think apologies are in order first of all in regard to the above- I’m afraid this issue has slipped “under the radar” ; I am sorry that our response has been so delayed.
    I have now picked this up again and am intending to visit the site on Tuesday morning to determine what signage is still in place. I have been unable to determine who has placed the sign there but from the Agency’s viewpoint I am looking at the following:-
    1) There appears to be no Agency permission for signage but I will need to review exactly how and what is there, and determine if it as a whole requires an EPR (Environmental Permitting Regulations) permit.
    2) There is no current approval to use the Agency logo on the sign and this must be removed- or covered up. Either way I should be able to quickly resolve that aspect on Tuesday morning.This also means that the signage contents has no official sanction from the Agency.
    3) As you are probably aware any portage arrangements would have to be by agreement with the appropriate riparian landowner- who may not be responsible for the sign. I have identified a number of different landowners and other bodies using the land around the weir to both banks; if it is possible to clarify who determines portage locally would you be happy for your contact details to be passed on? I will not do so without your permission. Neither I or my colleagues in the waterways team are aware of any agreement to portage on the left hand bank.


    I also brought to the EA's attention that a similar sign had appeared at Kempston weir - another dangerous one like Sharnbrooke - the internet records its appearance here http://access.canoedaysout.com/reports/access/242

    And so to my most recent response from the EA after Mr Bodell had visited the locations & which would seem to confirm my suspicions that the signs were using the EA logo without authority

    Hi Mr Whitehouse
    I can report some progress as follows:-
    Sharnbrook:- having spoken to the appropriate in-house team, the Bedfordia Group as the signs “owners” have been asked to remove our logo from their sign. They do not have permission to use it; it is unlikely that they would be granted such permission for that particular sign. As for its content that is not under our control or regulation. If you or the larger canoeing community have issues over its content I am afraid it will be for you to challenge the Bedfordia Group accordingly. I have not at this point referred the matter to Natural England, but will do so shortly; they can make a decision on their logo’s continuing presence on the sign.
    Kempston: this is a slightly more complex issue which we have been looking at for some time, yours not being the only referral about the issue. The Agency has carried out various works in and around that area but the particular sign in question is not one which the Agency has agreed to, permitted or placed ourselves. I will be contacting the landowner to discuss its location shortly but the outcome may be that it is simply removed from our fencing and placed separately nearby. We again cannot control or regulate the content; however part of the discussion with the sign’s owner will be to request that contact details be provided so that any challenge can be directed to the correct person or organisation. We intend to discuss our measures around the structure and safety implications for river users and liability issues. I am afraid you’ll have to bear with me on this a while longer as I will be away from the office from tomorrow until June 6th
    Regards
    Mike
    Mike Bodell Enforcement Officer, Bedford Asset Performance Team(APT)-Brampton office
    Environment Agency- East Anglia AreaTel: 020302 51900 - may divert to Mobile/Answering service

    ================================================== ================================================== ===========================

    I paddle the Great Ouse once or twice a year at most so I have no great wish to be an access activist - I will portage both weirs where I think it safe to do so and am not intimidated by signs or anglers.

    However, less experienced or more vulnerable paddlers might be forced into taking unnecessary risks - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england...herts-18344845 with less than optimal results.

    So, I think something should be done & I'm happy to help but don't really know where to go from here.......hoping the more knowledgeable access bods will have some ideas.

    Regards to you all, Dick
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  2. #2
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    Well done for making the effort Dick. It seems surprisingly common that folk who own either land or fishing rights assume that they can put whatever they want on signs, whether or not they have any legal standing. There are a few on the Wey backwaters, mostly in bizarre places. I've tried to find out who to talk to, but as you say, its not easy and the two companies I can find details of appear to be just "holding" companies.

    Maybe the angle is to reinforce the safety issue? Such signs are basically saying "you must put yourself at risk of death rather than step foot on my land quietly and responsibly for a short distance".

    The bit I STILL don't get, is what problem the few paddlers a year who might portage these weirs are actually causing to the landowners, serious enough for them to spend money on a posh sign? I'm guessing its basically to shut up a tiny number of very vocal fishing customers of theirs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    The bit I STILL don't get, is what problem the few paddlers a year who might portage these weirs are actually causing to the landowners, serious enough for them to spend money on a posh sign? I'm guessing its basically to shut up a tiny number of very vocal fishing customers of theirs.
    I think PP summed it up with this comment.

    "Am I right to assume that I am permitted to portage on the left hand bank?
    If not then navigation has effectively been prevented which concerns me greatly."

    They will try any tactic to stop navigation even if it puts people in danger, as theirs is a blood sport should we be surprised at this action!!!!
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
    Grp Cpt Sir Douglas Bader CBE,DSO,DFC,FRAeS.

  4. #4
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    Good work by you and fair answer by the EA.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

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    So what was the outcome to this?

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    My contention is that a river has a right of navigation, if a weir is built across that navigation, thereby obstructing it contrary to the 1472 Act, then a right of portage is there de jure. I can understand that a riparian owner might want to dictate one or other side of the river for such portage but provision must be made. If not, then it must be within the choice of the navigator.

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    Well put, Adrian. That's my logic too, and I hope the law would agree.

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    I have the same understanding of the law as Adrian; I have been asked by the BCU/CE for my personal contact details re this thread so I assume they have some contribution to make & I will keep this thread updated.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

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    PP,

    Did the BCU/CE ever get back to you on this.

  10. #10
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    Passed that sign today. The EA part of the sign had been blacked out. Selective reading meant I was able to ignore the rest of it
    Sam.

  11. #11
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    use of a green indelible felt pen to colour in the
    No
    Not
    and it become a very canoe friendly sign!!
    nature is m X-box

  12. #12
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    The chap from the BCU did call but said they would just be keeping an eye on the situation.

    i contacted the canoe club at Bedford and got zero response.

    i don’t have the time to crusade about something on a river I only paddle once a year or so and nobody else seems too worried about.

    i will return, paddle and portage sometime soon and look forward to a full and frank exchange of views with anyone who fancies challenging me.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

  13. #13
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    All good ideas.

    Has anyone ever actually been prosecuted for trespassing on land or paddling on a river with disputed access rights? Because wouldn't a decision on the law have to be reached before that could happen?

  14. #14
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    The law works the other way round - the only way to find out what it means is to bring a case to court. Decisions of a Crown Court become a precedent (I think), unless they are appealed to a higher court. Since the losing side doesn't want the precedent to be set, this can lead to a appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, which is hugely expensive. There is therefore a disincentive to get involved in legal action.

    However, you can't be prosecuted for trespass, it's not an offence (unless you commit damage or it counts as Aggravated Trespass, which I don't think applies here). If you are trespassing, the landowner or their agent can ask you to leave by the quickest route, and if you refuse to leave, can use reasonable force to ensure that you do. There are occasions where damages have been awarded (50p for interfering with fishing rights, see http://www.riveraccessforall.co.uk/faq.php#faq5) and where other things, like threatening behaviour, have been involved but I'm not aware of any case involving simple trespass).

    Lots more on http://www.riveraccessforall.co.uk/

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    Thanks Chris, I'll take a look.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_B View Post
    If you are trespassing, the landowner or their agent can ask you to leave by the quickest route, and if you refuse to leave, can use reasonable force to ensure that you do.
    I am not sure that the land owner can force you to leave by the shortest route, he has the right to require you to leave and you would be in the wrong if you refused but I can't find where the law states he can demand you use the shortest route.

    This could be an important point as in this case they could demand you go back up river putting you into a difficult and possibly dangerous position. If you agree to leave by what you consider the most appropriate way and they physically prevent you they would then be committing an offence themselves. I think the law would support anyone leaving by what they consider the safest route, and the land owner has a duty of care to anyone on their land.
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
    Grp Cpt Sir Douglas Bader CBE,DSO,DFC,FRAeS.

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    Thanks, Cloudman, the quickest route was what I have understood, but you're right, I can't find anything to support that. Although it wouldn't apply here, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 refers to the police powers to remove people from land if the do not leave "as soon as reasonably practicable" when directed. I've also spotted that 'necessity' is a defence in relation to trespass, so it might be arguable that portaging an obstruction to navigation is necessary and therefore not trespass.

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    The defence of "Necessity" isn't one I have ever used as on the few occasions I have been challenged have been when Rambling, I will read up on it as it certainly looks to cover this situation.
    "Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men"
    Grp Cpt Sir Douglas Bader CBE,DSO,DFC,FRAeS.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    My contention is that a river has a right of navigation, if a weir is built across that navigation, thereby obstructing it contrary to the 1472 Act, then a right of portage is there de jure. I can understand that a riparian owner might want to dictate one or other side of the river for such portage but provision must be made. If not, then it must be within the choice of the navigator.
    Is there anything documented that backs this?

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    My contention is that the position complies with the rules of natural justice. If one is contravening a law in a way which restricts a person's rights then a reasonable 'work-around' must be permitted or envisaged. In the same way as walkers circumnavigating an obstruction to a footpath.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    My contention is that the position complies with the rules of natural justice. If one is contravening a law in a way which restricts a person's rights then a reasonable 'work-around' must be permitted or envisaged. In the same way as walkers circumnavigating an obstruction to a footpath.
    This rule applies to trail-riders going round an obstruction on a legal byway, whether it be a fallen tree, an illegal gate or deliberately abandoned farm machinery. I try to take the safest, easiest route that will cause the least damage or effect. This isn't normally the shortest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Banzaibrothers View Post
    All good ideas.

    Has anyone ever actually been prosecuted for trespassing on land or paddling on a river with disputed access rights? Because wouldn't a decision on the law have to be reached before that could happen?
    Trespass, in isolation, is not a prosecutable offence I am told

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    Trespass is a civil wrong for which you can be sued for any damage you cause. The other remedy available would be an injunction to prevent you from doing it again even if you caused no damage.

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    Absolutely , by prosecutable, I was referring to criminal law. Of course if there's any evidence of damage.........

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