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"Right to row" raises new rural fears

[Monday 26 February 2007]
river wharfe at burnsall
Fears raised over "right to row" on dales rivers

AFTER the right to roam legislation which threw millions of privately-owned acres of land open to the public, and plans for a new long distance walk around the entire English coast, Parliament is now considering throwing all the country's waterways open to canoeists.

This is a proposal which is causing deep concern for many of England's three million anglers, who spend hundreds of millions of pounds to stock and maintain thousands of miles of rivers where fishing rights have been preserved for centuries.

The proposal is, at present, a Private Member's bill which is unlikely to reach the statute books because of a lack of parliamentary time. But after mainly left wing members pushed through land access rights, there are fears that this could become another town-v-country row which ended with the banning of fox hunting.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has raised these fears and says that there are already many voluntary access agreements in force between canoeists and riparian owners and this is the best way to satisfy both needs.

Says Douglas Chalmers, Director of CLA North: ". The fishing organisations who represent Britain's three million anglers agree with us as does the Government, who quote research showing that supply of access roughly matches demand.

The way forward is through voluntary negotiation and not more legislation

Douglas Chalmers - CLA

"Many rights are at risk here, and not just those of the riparian and landowner. Access rights and fishing rights that have been in place for generations may be swept away.

"Partnerships between local people, landowners and organisations, as recommended by the Environment Agency in October 2006, can achieve the kind of access that everyone wants and needs, without further erosion of legally held property rights.

"Many different interests have to be considered if rivers can be used for the social and economic well-being of all. We encourage people to enjoy the countryside responsibly, but obviously, the rights of riparian owners have also to be considered. The way forward is through voluntary negotiation and not more legislation."

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