Take action for rural Wales

A new e-campaign has been launched – please have your say on the Welsh access debate – take part now.
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Take action for rural Wales

Dear Sustainable Access Campaign Cymru supporter,
A new e-campaign has been launched to enable you to have your say on the ongoing access campaign – take part here.    With your help, we persuaded the Welsh Government not to bring in new legislation for access to the countryside when it published its green paper on the subject in 2014.  We were told that this was because officials received an unprecedented volume of letters and emails from supporters of the status quo.    However, the Government has now launched a new consultation which could lead to new legislation opening up uncontrolled access to the countryside, to include rivers for canoes and white water rafts.  We therefore need your help once again to persuade the Government that this would be a disaster for the sectors of the rural economy that depend on fishing, and that they should maintain the entirely sensible policy of supporting Voluntary Access Agreements, which make it possible for appropriate levels of access to be decided at a local level to reflect the conditions on each river.   We would encourage you all to respond to this consultation individually and as clubs. The Countryside Alliance has launched an e-lobby direct to the consultation team and you can add your own text to that letter. This is a short-fix and a more detailed comprehensive response will be sent by the CA in due course, however, to ensure that we have a large number of responses we would encourage you to forward the link and get as many supporters as possible to sign up. You can access the lobby at http://act.voteaction.uk/a/84 and the Welsh Government consultation can be read in full here.   Alternatively, you can send a letter to Landscape and Outdoor Recreation Branch, Rhodfa Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3UR or e-mail: AccessandOutdoorRecreation@Wales.GSI.Gov.UK by 2nd October saying that you are responding to the consultation on ‘Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation’.  You do not have to answer all the questions; you can just send a letter stating your views.  It would also be helpful if you could write to your Assembly Member letting them know that, as a voter, you do not support proposals for uncontrolled access.   When responding to the consultation you might want to consider making the following points:   We believe that Voluntary Access Agreements (VAAs) are the best way to manage recreation responsibly on our rivers.  For these to work, the canoeing governing bodies need to accept that VAAs will involve some reasonable restrictions on access to protect the property rights of angling clubs and riparian owners and to manage potential damage to the environment from watersports.  This is the only thing standing in the way of more waters being opened up to canoeists.   It appears that some people in government think that Wales should have a similar system to access as in Scotland, where there are very few restrictions.  The rivers in Wales are much smaller and less numerous than those in Scotland and there are far more people living in large cities near to those rivers.  Even in Scotland there have been some serious impacts on the fishing economy because of the recent open access legislation.   Canoeists contribute very little to the rural economy; they tend to visit for the day and rarely spend much.  Angling by contrast generates hundreds of millions for the economy, including millions in rod licence revenue.  There is scope for anglers and canoeists to co-exist, but there need to be restrictions on canoeing to avoid an increase in canoeing being at the expense of angling, which is enjoyed by tens of thousands of people in Wales, including numerous local angling clubs, and many visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more than canoeists. Angling Tourism does not seem to feature and we need to highlight its contribution to the economy.   You could also say that sustainable access to land and water must:

  • be agreed locally between the relevant parties to reflect the particular local conditions and pressures rather than being generally imposed by national regulations.
  • be managed to avoid conflict between users;
  • respect the rights of people to continue to enjoy existing legitimate activities without disturbance;
  • not cause unreasonable interference with the rights of landowners and lessees to enjoy their property;
  • not damage the natural environment or the ecosystem services it provides by causing damage to wildlife and habitats.

Over the past year, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal have spent many days and thousands of pounds challenging the canoeing governing bodies in Wales and England to stop putting out misinformation on their web sites and publications which give the impression that the current law relating to access to rivers is unclear.  Some progress has been made, and the governing bodies have changed some of the statements in some areas of their web sites.  However, there remains a widespread misconception that the law is not clear, and the Angling Trust and Fish Legal have hired a barrister (an eminent QC) to give a formal opinion to inform governments and the general public and to provide further challenge to the canoe governing bodies.    SACC is also looking into the cost of attending all the Welsh Party Political Conferences early next year to highlight the campaign. This will be very expensive to facilitate, however we feel that it is crucial to the campaign. Each conference will cost approximately £1,500.   If you haven’t yet made a donation to the SACC, or if you could afford to make another donation, please send a cheque payable to The Angling Trust to Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 8DQ.  Please mark your donation clearly for SACC and it will be devoted to SACC expenditure. Many thanks.   Thank you very much for your support and please don’t forget to respond to the consultation and/or write to your Assembly Member.   All best wishes   The SACC team

Secretary – rachel-evans@countryside-alliance.org