Memorandum the Welsh Canoeing Association
The Welsh Canoeing Association is the governing
body for canoe sport in Wales. The WCA is recognised as such by
the Sports Council for Wales, and represents 2,500 individual
members and 50 Clubs representing an additional 2,500 members.
Over one million people took to the water to canoe last year,
and over 20,000 people participate in canoeing in Wales on a regular
basis. Membership of the WCA is increasing, as is the number of
Canoeing is a sport that can be practised by
all regardless of age, sex, race or ability. Canoeing regularly
produces World Champions and Olympic Medallists for Great Britain.
The sport offers recreational enjoyment, a wide range of competitive
opportunities, environmental appreciation, educational achievement,
employment with economic development, and social inclusion.
The WCA has a policy of improving and increasing
the opportunities for canoeing in Wales, and welcomes the ability
to submit its concerns about the "Waterways of Tomorrow"
Paper to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee.
The WCA is concerned about the present poor,
and bleak future canoeists have in relation to their ability to
access waterways for their sport. It is the WCA's belief that
the Government needs to pay serious attention to the lack of access
recreational craft have to water, and needs to implement legislative
strategies to improve access to and along all categories of inland
Waterways for Tomorrow is a consultation
document that concentrates on a chain of waterways that are already
Navigations. These Navigations are predominantly larger rivers
Where such rights of navigation exist, The WCA
seeks to utilise the water in harmony with, and have an equal
use of water along side all other water-based activity. All uses
of inland water can, if properly managed, be complementary. Additionally,
any management policies should not reduce or restrict the present
level of canoeing activities on these waterways. Management strategies
must embrace all uses and should not give primacy to any one use.
For reasons of differences in flows and volume,
management regimes for rivers and canals should be derived on
a differing basis.
The status of the Navigations in the chain seems
to revolve around the ability of large or powered craft to physically
navigate the rivers.
Canoeists enjoy and are interested in all waterways,
which includes those not navigable by larger or powered craft.
Any Navigation Authority that is to acquire waters needs to consider
the effect upon users of non-powered craft that will be produced
by limiting the length of water that is to be deemed navigable.
If one was to consider a map of inland waterways
in England and Wales, then it is clear that Wales is poorly served
by this chain of waters.
Consequentially, if concentration is focused
solely on this existing chain, then the ability to maximise the
opportunities waterways have to offer for leisure and recreation
and the reciprocal benefits they can offer is extremely limited.
The existing chain of available waters does
not serve to meet the demands of leisure craft in the present.
Unless a wider approach is taken to embrace all waterways, it
will certainly not meet the demands of future generations.
The paper misses the fact that there are numerous
opportunities for economic growth, social development and education
through recreation and tourism, by promoting the development of
and access to and along the numerous rivers which do not exist
already a public navigations. It is imperative that concentration
should not be restricted to just larger waterways. In fact there
are over 250 rivers in Wales that are able to host canoeing.
Canoeists are interested in all waterways. The
canoe is an environmentally friendly traditional craft that leaves
no trace of its passing, and is able to physically navigate all
types of inland water. Many canoeists are interested in the smaller
stretches of placid inland water that are not navigable by large
powered craft. These include not only rivers but also lakes and
ponds. Many canoeists require the challenge of white water provided
by the topography and flows of the mid and upper reaches of rivers.
These waters are not considered in the scope of the report, but
are an important and often limited (restricted) resource for the
recreational paddler and those involved in competition.
Many of the waterways suitable for canoeing
are not public navigations. This dictates that canoeing activity
cannot take place without the permission of the riparian owner.
Refusal of permission from one riparian owner can prevent access
to a whole stretch of water.
Navigation status is often disputed on rivers
and the presence of recreational activities is often challenged.
For reasons of cost and availability of evidence, it is often
impracticable to try and prove a navigation through the Courts
on the majority of rivers that can be, and historically were used
by small man-powered craft as navigations since Time Immemorial.
There is evidence to show that canoeing has
no significant bearings on fish populations, but despite this
fact the majority of angling interests are unwilling to share
waterways with canoeists and continue to preclude canoeing on
the majority of rivers.
The DETR is investigating ways in which voluntary
access agreements can be achieved to increase access to waterways.
This initiative, and access along and utilisation of waters other
than navigations, is ignored by the Waterways for Tomorrow
It is significant to note that apart from a
few exceptions; the voluntary approach to secure access has not
been successful. Despite half a century of effort and negotiations,
canoeists only have access to less than 1 per cent of the potential
paddleable water in England and Wales.
The focus of the Waterways of Tomorrow paper
is limited to a handful of inland waters in Wales. As mentioned,
earlier, there are over 250 rivers in Wales that are able to host
canoeing in Wales, and benefit not only the participants but also
the local economies surrounding each catchment. The WCA has Formal
Access Agreements to only 13 of these rivers. The focus of Waterways
of Tomorrow has to embrace and deal with this issue.
It is also significant to note that to remove
conflict with anglers, the majority of access agreements that
are in place relate only to the closed fishing season. The obligatory
closed fishing season has been removed from canals, and the Salmon
and Freshwater Fisheries Review recommends that the closed fishing
season be removed from coarse fishing rivers. The report needs
to adopt a wider approach and address these matters, and ensure
that the limited resources canoeists have are not diminished.
The WCA will support any initiatives to increase
access via voluntary means, but holds that a significant increase
in the number of access agreements needs to occur before they
are judged to be a way forward. It is imperative that any initiative
to increase access via voluntary means is implemented to achieve
demand-based targets in reasonable time scales.
Public monies should be freely available to
assist in the exercise, and consideration must be given to the
public purchase of navigation rights in order to vest them in
organisations that could manage and promote recreational access
to and use of water.
A more practicable solution to the access problem
would be to adopt the approach that all rivers are subject to
rights of navigation, as they would have been in 1189, and that
access along the whole of their linear progression is unrestricted
unless closed by statute. This would ensure that a modern, integrated
and sustainable approach was present to allow development of all
aspects associated with inland waterways.
The ability to access all waterways would be
governed by a code of conduct, and localised regulations, that
ensured that all users exercised their rights responsibly or forfeited
them. This would ensure that legitimate interests were governed
by a mutually integrated and recognised form of regulation, which
would protect all users' expectations of reasonably disturbance
free enjoyment of their activity and the countryside.
This approach allows for regulation, a win/win
scenario for all activities, opportunities to create additional
and associated jobs and an opportunity for landowners to generate
The ability to access water for recreational
purposes in England and Wales is in poor state compared to other
European Countries. Sport produces greater social inclusion and
economic benefits in these countries than in the UK for this very
Canoe tourism brings much needed money into
these European countries. Wales hosts some of the best waters
for canoeing in Europe, however the inability to access and use
waters means that this much needed income is lost due to lack
of vision. The law has to be brought in line with other European
The law relating to the public's ability to
access inland water is dated. The law no longer reflects the wishes
and needs of our modern society, as it was implemented at a time
when recreational activity was not as prominent or economically
profitable as it is today.
The numerous opportunities for economic growth
and social development offered by water-based recreation will
not be released unless innovative measures are installed to produce
a wider base of access to and along all inland waterways.