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Beware canoes are closer!

Written By: Garth Roberts
On Date: 25/1/2007

The Rivers Access Campaign highlights the need for new legislation with a ten minute rule bill – Public Access to Inland Waters Bill 2007 Parliament 24th Jan : Ten Minute Rule Bill - Public Access to Inland Waters Bill 2007 Given Second reading A Ten Minute Rule Bill - Public Access to Inland Waters Bill 2007 – is being presented today, Wednesday 24th January, by Des Turner, MP for Brighton on behalf of the Rivers Access Campaign and general public. The Bill outlines the need for legislation, similar to the Scottish Land Reform Act 2003.

NOTE The Billl is through to a second reading!!

Second reading on Feb 23rd.

The legislation would identify canoeists and other water user’s right to access the waters as well as codify their responsibilities.
Over the past year, the Rivers Access Campaign has received increased publicity (e.g. ref 1.0) in national and international media, today’s Ten Minute Rule Bill will show that legislation is the only way forward for access to inland waters. It will help keep the rivers access issue firmly on the Government’s agenda.

Chief Executive, Paul Owen comments,

“Opening up rivers would help the BCU achieve its sporting and recreational aims. Greater access would also enable us to assist in reaching the Government’s aims for outdoor educational, participation in physical activity and the health agenda.”

The Countryside Right of Way legislation (CRoW), which gives some people the right to roam, has not included everyone. Canoeists, swimmers, non-powered watersports have not been given the right to roam right to go to, on, traverse or in waters which have no access agreement or public right of navigation. Even if you want to watch wildlife from a boat/canoe, put your hot feet in the water after a walk, or allow you children to wade in a river on a hot summer’s day you could be committing trespass if there is no access to or along that waterway. Despite lobbying, water was taken out of the CRoW Act at the eleventh hour and still there is no access to and along 98% of the rivers in England and Wales.

In essence England and Wales have a natural heritage which provides great opportunities for open-air recreation and education. Open-air recreation provides people with great benefits for their health and well-being and contributes to the good of society in many other ways.
The Public Access to Inland Waters Bill (2007) gives everyone (non-motorised users) statutory access rights to and along most inland waters. However, people will only have these rights if they exercise them responsibly.
All rights of navigation will continue to exist and are unaffected by the Public Access to Inland Waters Bill (2007)

Why Legislation and why voluntary rivers access agreements do not work
From over 41,00 miles (66,000kms) of rivers in England and Wales without a public right of navigation, only 510 miles (812 kilometres) of mostly highly restricted access has been negotiated. Some agreements are for just a few days each year adding very little to the 2% of inland waterways with a public right of navigation. Ultimately, access is in the hands of riparian owners. If they refuse to engage in negotiation, there is no way a canoeist or others can make progress.

Legislation, such as this Bill, will codify responsible access to and along water. It protects the environment and activities of canoeists, anglers, other users and landowners who are all required to adhere an Access Code. One similar to that of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code would be developed to support the Bill.

A legal right of access to rivers would provide more recreational opportunities for a group of people who want to use the water for recreational and educational purposes including canoeists, swimmers, and boaters and members of the general public with knock-on benefits for public health. The recreational aspects of canoeing could coincide effectively with government’s “everyday sport” and Welsh Assembly Government’s “Climbing Higher Strategy” if only river users had more access.

Legally protected access would provide clarity and certainty for those visiting our inland waters and remove the potential for conflict.
Canoeing can provide numerous benefits to the individual and as well as community.

Our sport and recreation, which is currently the most popular watersport in the UK, contributes to the Government’s targets on; health - it is a healthy outdoor activity which encourages a respect and passion for nature and the environment. It also contributes to the local and national economy. With the London 2012 Olympics on the not too distant horizon, England and Wales should have the same access to our waters as the rest of the World.

Water related activities are dramatically on the increase and access would provide millions of people with the opportunity to recreate near their homes and on a variety of waters.
The Campaign is supported by; the Inland Waterways Association, the canoeing community, many sporting and non sporting bodies, uniformed youth organisations and the thousands who think the law is archaic and needs to be clarified though new legislation.

For more information on the campaign the Rivers Access Campaign website


Note Rules
Bills introduced under the ten-minute rule are one of the ways in which back bench MPs (private Members) can introduce legislation. There is little parliamentary time available for them to be debated and so they are frequently not serious attempts at legislation. The process is used more as a means of making a point on the need to change the law on a particular subject. Motions under this rule may also provide the opportunity for MPs to test Parliament's opinion on a particular subject upon which they may wish to legislate at a later date. The ten minute rule allows a brief introductory speech and one opposing the motion to be made in the House after Question Time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when the House is likely to be full. Such Bills can become law but this is rare. Not all ten minute rule Bills are printed. Members are often satisfied with the publicity achieved by their speech in the Chamber. Unprinted Bills cannot make any further progress. Further information can be obtained from factsheet L2 on the UK Parliament website.

Even if a Bill is passed by a vote on the day, this only constitutes its first reading. In order to progress it will need the government in the shape of the leader of the Commons to provide parliamentary time for further debates. This is highly unlikely to happen unless the Bill is government sponsored.

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