No right to paddle?

Benyon rejects canoeists campaign to paddle over anglers' rights

Angling bodies have been getting increasingly concerned at the conduct of the British Canoe Union (BCU) and Canoe England (CE) who are encouraging canoeists to defy the law and trample over anglers rights.

They have been promoting a 'Right to Paddle' campaign for several years and simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of limitations on navigation in civil law. Both organisation promote canoeing guides and events which encourage canoeing on rivers where no lawful right of navigation exists.

Organised trespasses are becoming all the more commonplace and are promoted through the 'independent' website 'Song of the Paddle' which promotes what they call 'open canoeing'.

The Angling Trust recently sought clarification on the canoeists demands from Fisheries and Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon. The minister strongly rebutted the notion of an automatic 'right to paddle' up every stream, brook and river in the country regardless of the impact on either the environment or other river users.

Richard Benyon made it clear in an interview for the Angling Trust members magazine The Angle that there will be no legal right to paddle without the riparian owners permission. The previous Labour government was clear on this and the policy of voluntary access agreements only has now been re-affirmed by the Coalition government.

Text from Fisheries and Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon's interview on canoeists:

Q - Angling Trust: Will you rule out a statutory 'right to paddle' for canoeists?
A - Richard Benyon: I want to be really clear about this. While we want more people to get out and enjoy activities in the countryside they must be complimentary. There are plenty of places to canoe where it is appropriate and others where it is not. There will be no change to our policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as the only way forward. Anglers and fishery owners spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams and their rights deserve to be respected.

Angling Trust National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter said:
'The Angling Trust has been challenging the claims being made by militant canoeists that they should have a right paddle up every river, stream or brook in Britain irrespective of ownership or the impact this has on wildlife or other people's enjoyment. The rights of navigation are clear in law and there are thousands of miles of navigable rivers and waterways to which canoeists have legal access. We also have well worked voluntary access agreements in place which allow canoeing on some rivers such as the Dart and the upper Wye at times of high water when fishing will not be affected.

Because the BCU is refusing to recognise the law of the land it is pulling out of these voluntary access agreements claiming they are now unnecessary.The rejection of  a 'right to paddle' by Richard Benyon is most welcome and we call upon the organisations that represent canoeists to recognise the law of the land and that it is not going to be changed in their favour any time soon.

Continued authorised trespasses by the BCU could put funding for their sport in jeopardy which would be a shame as there is plenty of water out there for everyone to share provided that people agree to operate within the law and do not think that they can trample over the rights of anglers and others.'