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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/07/2013 - British Canoe Union Told to Put up or Shut up and Respect the Law


The CEO of   the Angling Trust and Fish Legal has written to the British Canoe Union (BCU)   demanding that it publicly accepts the established legal position that there   is no universal right to paddle on most rivers in England & Wales, and to   support the government policy of local voluntary access agreements. The BCU   has in recent months suggested on its web site and elsewhere that ancient   laws might give people the right to paddle or row boats wherever and whenever   they like.

Confusingly,   the BCU is at the same time campaigning for a change in the law to allow   unlimited and unregulated access to all rivers at all times, free of charge.   The Angling Trust has also been reliably informed that the BCU has ordered   its local staff and volunteers not to sign voluntary access agreements with   angling clubs and landowners unless they allow access at all times.

This   conduct by the BCU has coincided with a spate of widespread unlawful   canoeing, increased conflict on riverbanks and threatening behaviour towards   law-abiding anglers and their clubs over the past year. Anglers pay rent and   a rod licence to go fishing, and are subject to close seasons and a wide   range of bye laws.

The issue   has been highlighted in a recent article published by the BBC, in which the   BCU's suggestion of general public rights of navigation dating back to   medieval times was explained as a "misunderstanding" of the law by   highly respected and independent barrister Jonathon Karas QC, an expert in   this area of law. The BCU has responded to the article, hinting that it has   conflicting legal advice. Lawyers at Fish Legal, which acts as the legal arm   of the Angling Trust in England, have previously confronted the BCU with the   established legal position, but have never been shown the BCU's advice.

Mark Lloyd,   Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, has now written to his   counterpart at the BCU demanding that they reveal the conflicting advice,   accept the law and work with anglers to promote voluntary access agreements   so that paddlers and others can enjoy greater lawful access to rivers.

Mark Lloyd   said: "The BCU's position has now been independently referred to as a   misunderstanding of the law, and I believe it would be irresponsible for them   to risk greater confusion and conflict by denying that the law is anything   other than clear: there are no general public rights of navigation above the   tidal limit unless specifically acquired (usually by statute). They may not   like the law, or the government's policy, but as a national governing body   they must accept both. The Angling Trust and its members are keen to increase   access to waters for boats and swimmers where appropriate, but on a small   island it makes sense to have agreements drawn up between local people to   share access and to avoid conflict between users and potential damage to the   environment."




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