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Thread: River Access Early Day Motion in Parliament

  1. #1
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    Default River Access Early Day Motion in Parliament

    Those who are members of British Canoeing will already be familiar with the new charter, “Clear Access Clear Waters” which was launched last November at Westminster. Since then the pressure has been maintained with a growing number of cross party MPs supporting the charter. This has resulted in John Grogan MP tabling an Early Day Motion for access to rivers. A link to details about this on the BC website is below and below that a link to the EDM on the Parliamentary website.
    https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/n...rly-day-motion
    https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-...-for-canoeists

    The motion of itself will not necessarily produce legislation for access but the more MPs who sign up their support for this then the greater the chance that it will be taken up, so please get in touch with your MP, or preferably visit them and ask them for their support.

    I went and spent about half an hour with my MP at her weekly surgery and she was very interested in what I had to say, (probably heartily relieved that I wasn’t there to badger her about Brexit!) As a result she has agreed to support the motion and she has also written to Michael Gove the DEFRA Minister asking when there will be legislation for access to rivers. If you need more info then there’s lots of background information on the BC web pages and of course the killer statistic is that of the 42,000 miles of paddleable river in England we only have a guaranteed right of access to 1,400 miles, less than 4% which in anyone’s language is simply unfair.
    Mike

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    This is important. The more MPs who can learn about the issue the better, so I hope the SotP crowd can help. It is also good to see that Michael Gove has a copy of the Charter https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/n...ter-canoe-club
    My MP is one of the sponsers so she will be getting a letter of congratulations and support. They all need something different to think about instead of Br....
    Many thanks for your work on this Mike - it is great that SotP has a member on the British Canoeing Access & Environment Advisory Group.

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    Yeah, good points. Its time I reminded my (deeply Tory) MP about the correspondence we had on access a few years ago. He was approachable, friendly and entirely non-committal, but at least my words on the rewards of being on the rivers should stick with him, and he said he acknowledged that he'd learnt something which he would remember if it comes up in parliament.

    I shall drop him another e-mail.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Yeah, good points. Its time I reminded my (deeply Tory) MP about the correspondence we had on access a few years ago. He was approachable, friendly and entirely non-committal, but at least my words on the rewards of being on the rivers should stick with him, and he said he acknowledged that he'd learnt something which he would remember if it comes up in parliament.

    I shall drop him another e-mail.
    I have also emailed stuff about canoe/river access to my MP Robert Goodwill. I got a helpful reply although it did turn out to be a dead end. But like you - I 'd hope he remembers it if it comes to a parliamentary discussion. Doing something positive is always better than just moaning amongst like minded folk.
    http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.co.uk/

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    I've dropped a message to my MP - Liam Fox (!)

    If you don't know how to contact your MP, here's help:

    https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

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    Update time

    I emailed my MP, Jonathan Lord, Conservative MP for Woking, having corresponded with him on this subject some years ago.

    Initially, I got a reply saying

    Lovely to hear from you again.


    Thank you very much indeed for your email regarding access to rivers for canoeists. All read and noted by me.


    I am sorry to hear that nothing has changed on this matter since 2011. I’m however afraid that, as a matter of principle and like many other MPs, I don’t sign EDMs which have no real parliamentary function and yet are very expensive to administer.


    I have however written off to the appropriate ministerial colleagues, for whom the access to our waterways is part of their area of responsibility, and I will be in contact as soon as my office has received a response to the points that you raise.


    Once again, thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to my attention.

    This was followed a week or so later by an email with a copy of a letter from Therese Coffey (sorry for poor quality, had to use phone camera to convert to jpg!):





    So, it might be said we got fobbed off with a standard answer.


    However, having exchanged a few messages with Ben Seal of BC, he reminded me that if Therese gets enough of these letters from MP's across her desk, she might feel she has to do something about it. And each MP involved will remember something about it too.

    So its not a waste of time, it may eventually make a difference, even if it feels like its very slow.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Oh, and Ben also followed it up with an email to my MP, so he's now had several communications.
    Paddler,blogger,camper,pyromaniac: Blog: Wilderness is a State of Mind

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Update time

    I emailed my MP, Jonathan Lord, Conservative MP for Woking, having corresponded with him on this subject some years ago.

    Initially, I got a reply saying




    This was followed a week or so later by an email with a copy of a letter from Therese Coffey (sorry for poor quality, had to use phone camera to convert to jpg!):





    So, it might be said we got fobbed off with a standard answer.


    However, having exchanged a few messages with Ben Seal of BC, he reminded me that if Therese gets enough of these letters from MP's across her desk, she might feel she has to do something about it. And each MP involved will remember something about it too.

    So its not a waste of time, it may eventually make a difference, even if it feels like its very slow.

    I received an identical letter - to the word - via my MP Liam Fox.

    (At least they're saving some money by running off the same letter ;-(.

    Now, I wonder how many of these we could collect????? Could we get one via every single MP in the Country? )
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

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    I find the DEFRA letter really irritating. They have been told repeatedly that voluntary agreements have not worked and we need a whole-country solution, not a local solution for every small stretch of water - that is just impossible. Also disappointing to learn that many MPs ignore EDMs.
    Oh well, keep campaigning folks.

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    Is there not anywhere some kind of halfway house?(Intended as a genuine enquiry, not a provocation, BTW!) Seems unlikely, looking at the realpolitik of things and how distracted everyone is, for the universal right to paddle to be passed as-is.

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    This is the problem - shameful!



    http://access.canoedaysout.com/map
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

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    What is, I'm not understanding the point?

    Excuse my naivite, but I'm new to this debate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonefish Blues View Post
    What is, I'm not understanding the point?

    Excuse my naivite, but I'm new to this debate.
    If the link works OK, the map shows waterways with a "generally accepted right to paddle", "Access agreements" and "Disputed rights".

    If you zoom in to South Wales (for example) or Wales itself for that matter, the vast majority is "Disputed".

    Taken with the DeFRA statement, and remembering the recent celebrations on the mass trespass on Kinder, and then looking at the Scottish map....

    My rather laboured point is that the water is OURS, not the property of fishing clubs (I love fishing by the way) or landowners. Any more than the moors were.

    (Opps - got a bit heated there.....)
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

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    Understood. What safeguards are built in, if any, for the the different parties in the proposals?

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    Built into what?

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    Mr Bonefish B, I think you might find it helpful to read the British Canoeing statements on water access here: https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/g...ccess-to-water

    Also, watch the excellent videos produced as part of the Access Charter and Campaign here: https://www.britishcanoeing.org.uk/g...arter-campaign

    As you will see, the aim is to achieve fair equal access for all - not much to ask is it?

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    I'm wondering why there hasn't been a test case brought v-a-v access rights, given the legal certainty expressed in the document?

    I don't think it's too much to ask in principle, providing there is, for instance, ability to exclude certain watercourses for defined periods ('temporary exclusions' are mentioned, I notice), but there's clearly a huge amount of work to be done in the definition as the Charter is at quite a high level as it is.

    Coming new to this debate, as I said, I have no axe to grind either way, but the range of interests which would be likely to oppose these proposals would be significant, I sense, which is why I asked the initial question about some sort of halfway house?

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    It is a complex subject but for a simplistic comment; do we have half way houses on public footpaths where some users can restrict access by others or where a landowner can restrict certain types of users for example allowing shooting but not running?

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    Indeed, I do understand some of the issues even at this early stage Adrian. There's much detail to do, clearly, but even at this early stage, it would be useful to have a working definition of a watercourse, for instance. There are powerful interest groups who would vehemently oppose this, I sense, so a focus on the 'art of the possible' might be advisable/expedient?

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    As soon as you get lulled into the minutia you are lost. Look at the way the EU negotiates!!!! The argument must be fought on the absolute broadest of bases. Watercourses are of course all natural routes with flowing water and they are navigable if you can pass a small craft along them. The 'other side' tries to suggest Magna Carta only refers to 'the great rivers' and immediately reduces the argument to five rivers or so.

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    But that's the very essence of negotiation & consultation, shirley

    I'd love to be proved wrong, but if the proposition is, paraphrased, open access to all water that a small craft can pass along*, with a right to traverse property to do same, publicly funded via compensatory payments to farmers & landowners, other than for temporary suspensions for defined reasons, then I don't see how that would 'fly', hence my use of 'realpolitik' in my first post.

    Or is the strategy to 'shoot for the stars', and expect the moon, as it were?

    *I've seen the blogs from P. Paddler, and others on here!

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    That's because you are extending the proposition. The starting point is the recognition of the extant law, the allowing of passing of vessels. Limits on access across land is already established law.

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    OK thanks. I was repeating what I thought I had I'd gleaned from reading the document linked, so perhaps I didn't read it correctly.

    Why hasn't the law been tested (to repeat an earlier point) then - it seems the obvious thing to do? I know I could, and I'm darn sure you could name multiple stretches of river where such a confrontation/denial of access routinely takes place.

    So established, then a conversation might then usefully take place?

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    I think the first point is that you would need a clear dispute to be in place; an argument over a particular stretch of river might only in you the stretch, not the principle. The second issue would be the cost of launching the case. It might be easy to win or lose in a magistrates' court but, in order for a case to set any form of precedence, it would need to be heard in the High Court or Court of Appeal which would cost an absolute mint.

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    Indeed, I do understand some of the issues even at this early stage Adrian. There's much detail to do, clearly, but even at this early stage
    It's not really an early stage. I've been paddling since 1982, and it's moved a long way since then.
    open access to all water that a small craft can pass along*, with a right to traverse property to do same, publicly funded via compensatory payments to farmers & landowners
    No, just the first part, the right to use natural rivers that are physically navigable by small craft. Most paddlers believe that's a historic right, but many anglers and landowners disagree. The right to traverse property would be a major change; there's no evidence of that as a historic right, so there is also a search for old records of fords, etc, where public right of way lead to the water. There's one exception to traversing property that I think should be clarified - where there's an artificial obstruction to navigation, such as a weir or low bridge, there should be right to bypass it.
    Why hasn't the law been tested
    Mainly because it would very expensive, since once you'd started you'd need to go all the way to the Supreme Court, assuming the other side were willing to, otherwise you'd lose by failing to pursue, and that loss would set a precedent. For a paddler to take it to law, my guess it would need to be some kind of request for an injunction to prevent disruption to the assumed right of navigation; you're trying to prove a negative. For a landowner, it would need to be for trespass or possibly damages for disruption to fishing. The fact that no landowner has, so far as I'm aware, attempted such a thing suggests that there may not be much confidence.

    So in the meantime, people paddle what seems navigable and sometimes get hassled by anglers etc. Many paddlers are prepared to put up with that, but it's a major barrier to taking youngsters on trips, and some clubs may be risk averse because it might be the office bearers who would be liable. Hence the need to clarify the law.

    Scotland passed the Land Reform Act in 2004, giving (I'm summarising) recreational access to uncultivated areas subject to being reasonable towards other users. That can be suspended temporarily by the landowner for things like stalking.

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    Thanks, that's interesting. By early stage, I was referring to this initiative, btw.

    So in effect there's, to coin the phrase, a Mexican Stand-Off, where neither party wants to test the law, and each side* asserts that it has the law on its side. Unsatisfactory to say the least.

    *Adversarial language, but I hope you understand the sense in which it's used.

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