Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Chairman of the South West Regional Fisheries Ecology and Recreation Advisory Committee (IW 27)

THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS

  The following text reflects the issues which this Committee believes are important to the future of the UK's Waterways.

  1.  Integrated river basin management is essential in all the work for which the Environment Agency has responsibility. It is vital that this important pivotal role for the Environment Agency is to the forefront in the deliberations of the inquiry. The Agency's holistic management of rivers, including fisheries, flood defence, water abstraction, land discharge and recreation is critical to the sustainable management of the whole water environment.

  2.  There is particular concern that little reference has so far been made to the difference between man-made canals and naturally occurring rivers. Many of the rivers have statutory status as either SSSIs or candidate SACs. Development or regeneration of most of the rivers in the South West as waterways would be both inappropriate and damaging to the environment. Other than canals there is only a small amount of navigation in the region nor is there potential for this.

  3.  It is important for the inquiry to recognise that, unlike canals, the majority of rivers are privately owned often in short fragmented stretches each with an individual owner. Frequently the ownership of one side is in different hands to the opposite side.

  4.  Tourism and particularly angling tourism is an important part of the rural economy in the South West. Many tourist orientated enterprises have been built up and depend upon unrestricted access to a section or sections of river; this is linked to also being part of the management of that particular river or section of it.

  5.  Whilst welcoming the concept of water transfers there are two important factors which the inquiry should consider in connection with this issue. These are: (i) the risk of the spread of fish diseases, and (ii) the effect on migratory fish in rivers which sustain a run of migratory salmonids.

  There would also be an effect on the whole ecology as a result of different chemical and biological properties of differing waters.

  6.  Where it is appropriate to develop or regenerate a waterway, this would be welcomed in the Region and the recognition and importance given to waterways is to be commended.

  7.  The Waterways for Tomorrow document gives great emphasis to leisure and recreation; angling is of course one of the most popular recreations. There is potential for conflict between various recreational users of waterways and this is not only recognised by the Environment Agency but the Agency is currently bringing forward policies to offer wider opportunities for recreational use at the same time avoiding conflict.

  8.  Sustainable development and partnership are also important themes in the Waterways for Tomorrow document. Integrated management such as is currently practiced by the Environment Agency is the key to this; it is successful and must be allowed to continue.

BACKGROUND

  The South West RFERAC is a statutory Committee representing the interests of local landowners and riparian owners, fisheries, recreation (including angling), conservation and navigation. Its role is to advise the Environment Agency on its activities in these areas.


 
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