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The environment minister is being permitted to oversee a highly sensitive issue in which he has an active proprietorial stake Posted by George Monbiot Thursday 4 April 2013 13.43 BST
Richard Benyon 'repeatedly wields his power in ways that promote his own interests'. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
Nowhere in Britain is power more concentrated than in the countryside. Some people claim we have the second lowest distribution of land in the world, after Brazil. Because - thanks to the resistance of the landlords - there is no comprehensive record of who owns what, we can't be completely sure. But in 2002
Kevin Cahill's book Who Owns Britain and Ireland estimated that 69% of the land is owned by 0.6% of the population. It has intensified since then: government figures show that between 2005 and 2011 the number of landholdings in England has fallen by 10%, while the average size of holding has risen by 12%.
Possession translates into power. Little can be done in the countryside without the blessing of the tiny minority who own most of the land. They tend to be more resistant to progressive change than the rest of the population, and have successfully delayed or prevented measures that many other people favour. Their power is the reason why it took so long to secure a right to roam in England and Wales, why wildlife is so poorly protected, why we have been slower than any other country in Europe to restore unproductive land and reintroduce missing species, and why atrocious practices like snaring and the continued use of lead shot(rather than non-toxic substitutes) continue. You'd think that landowners, with their hegemonic grip on the countryside and their tremendous lobbying power - exercised through bodies like the Countryside Alliance, the National Farmers' Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the House of Lords - were powerful enough already. But David Cameron evidently didn't think so. He appointed one of his richest aristocratic chums, the hereditary owner of two vast estates and a good deal of property elsewhere, as minister for the natural environment, water and rural affairs. The result is that Richard Benyon, the minister in question, is so enmeshed in potential conflicts of interest that were he to recuse himself from all the issues in which he has a personal stake, he would have nothing to do but order the departmental paperclips. But he does not recuse himself. He repeatedly wields his power in ways that promote his own interests. I have yet to come across a case in which he has acted against them. There has scarcely been a starker clash between public duties and private interests since Ernest Marples, owner of the motorway-building company Marples Ridgway, was made minister of transport, and promptly commissioned Dr Beeching to shut down the railways. Here are some examples: 1. Benyon was responsible for a policy that, when it came to light, caused the government great embarrassment and forced it into a U-turn. He had sought to use public money to capture buzzards and destroy their nests, in order to help pheasant
shoots. By pure coincidence, he happens to own the 20,000-acre Englefield estate in southern England, where he employs gamekeepers to stock it with pheasants and kill the animals that might eat them. Last year I found a video in which one of Benyon's gamekeepers listed buzzards as the first of the predators he blamed for eating his pheasants. Seldom has there been a more selfserving use of taxpayers' money. 2. Across England, birds of prey are still being illegally shot and poisoned by gamekeepers. One of the reasons why the practice continues is that landowners here carry no liability for the killings they commission. When Benyon was challenged in the House of Commons to introduce a law of vicarious liability, making the owners responsible for illegal persecution of wildlife by their staff, he dismissed the proposal out of hand. 3. During Richard Benyon's tenure, Natural England, the statutory body charged with defending the nation's wildlife, has been reduced to a shell. That represents one less headache for the landowners for whom further vast enrichment is a more pressing goal than protecting treasured places. Landowners like Benyon, perhaps, whose Englefield Estate has sold the rights to quarry sand and gravel across 88 hectares of important wildlife habitat, to the great distress of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. Now here we go again. This article is about yet another of the minister's potential conflicts of interest. For many years canoeists, kayakers and wild swimmers have been seeking access to the rivers of England and Wales. In Scotland, as in most parts of the world, the rivers are open to those who can navigate them. But in England and Wales, canoeists and others have formal rights of access to only 3% of our rivers: 1,400 out of 42,700 miles. Everywhere else we are told we are trespassing. We have been denied one of life's great joys: messing about on the river. There are 2.5 million canoeists and kayakers in this country, and doubtless many more people who would like to jump in the water or take their children for a paddle. But the landlords - primarily those who own or lease the fishing rights resolutely seek to prevent public use of this great
national asset: the waterways that by right surely belong to everyone and no one. Now here's where it gets interesting. The landowners seem to be asserting a power to exclude that they do not possess. Going back to the 15th century and beyond, there appears to be a general right of navigation on all rivers. As the campaign River Access for All points out, this right was tested in the high court in 2002 (Josie Rowland v Environment Agency, case number HC 0102371.) Mr Justice Lightman ruled that the: "Public Right of Navigation [PRN] may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers or by destruction of the subject matter of PRN eg through silting up of the watercourse." As no such legislation has been passed, the public right of navigation remains in force. But because landowners and their tenants do not recognise this right, everywhere but on the 3% of rivers where it has been formally conceded, canoeists, kayakers, swimmers and the rest of the public are barred by threatening signs, barbed wire and intimidating men insisting that they are trespassing. Canoe England, which is also campaigning for access, stresses that it is not asking to navigate every mile of brook and stream. Though canoeing has very little impact on the environment, there are a few places of particular sensitivity where it could be detrimental. But the general claim the landowners make, that it damages fisheries, is incorrect. A study for the Environment Agency concluded that: "the consensus opinion of the assembled panel of experts is: 'Canoeing is not harmful to coarse or salmonid fish stocks in rivers'." But the evidence is of little interest to those who refuse to share the rivers: it's not, in reality, about the sensitivities of fish; it's about excluding the great unwashed from their preserves. This is particularly the case on rivers used for very expensive trout fishing, though such sentiments also infect more popular clubs. The Angling Trust lobbies politicians to prevent the recognition of wider rights of access. It is well-placed to do so: its national campaigns co-ordinator is the former MP Martin Salter. I suspect that on this issue and on others the trust is an embarrassment to some of the anglers it claims to represent. I have met plenty of fisherfolk
who have both strong democratic instincts and a great love of wildlife, positions the Angling Trust does not appear to share. I wonder how many would support, for example, the trust's demand that the government should "authorise the trapping and lethal control" of any beavers spreading from Scotland into England. (Beavers were native to these isles until they were hunted to extinction a few centuries ago and have now been reintroduced in two areas in Scotland). I wonder how many would endorse its ecologically illiterate claim that beavers are bad for fish. Studies in both Europe and North America show that theirpresence in rivers boosts fish populations, as they create shelter and habitat. As a keen angler and a keen canoeist I have, so to speak, a foot in both boats. I've fished in many of the rivers of Britain, including those frequented by kayakers and canoeists. And I have kayaked on quite a few of them as well. Paddle down the Wye during the school holidays when - because it is among the very few rivers where canoes are permitted - the river becomes extremely busy, and you'll see a sight which immediately destroys the claim that fishing and canoeing are incompatible: trout rising all around the boats. Where fish are accustomed to them, they quickly lose their fear. Given that it claims to encourage people to keep fit and to participate in sports, given that there appears to be no legal basis for exclusion, you might have expected the government to clarify the law and either accept the legally established general right of access or change it. But it refuses to do so. Instead it suggests that landowners and canoeists should resolve the issue through "voluntary access agreements". The problem with voluntary access agreements is that if the landlords don't volunteer, they don't happen. Unsurprisingly they have been a flop: the British Canoe Union has been trying to strike them for nearly 50 years, and has been rebuffed almost everywhere. Without guidance from the government, the issue is resolved in favour of landlords prepared to use force or threats of force to prevent people from exercising their natural and ancient right.
The man currently responsible for the issue is Richard Benyon. During arecent interview with the Angling Trust, he said this: "There will be no change to our policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as the only way forward. Anglers and fishery owners spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams and their rights deserve to be respected." But not apparently the rights of canoeists, whose organisations also spend a lot of time and money caring for our rivers and streams. Benyon has sided with one constituency against another. Now why would he do that? Could it be because he owns fishing rights on the River Kennet and the River Pang? His estate office tells me that it regards its section of the Pang as closed to kayaks and canoes (in other words "non-navigable"). Benyon leases his fishing on the Kennet to the Reading and District Angling Association (RDAA). Here, his office conceded, "the entire stretch is fully navigable by water craft." This is indisputable: the right of boats to use this water is spelt out in the 1715 Kennet Navigation Act. But has Benyon's Englefield Estate transmitted this fact to the association? The RDAA's fisheries officer says this on its forum: "Lower Benyons from the weir downstream ... is most defenatly [sic] NON-NAVIGABLE. That
means no boats, dingies, rubber rings surf boards etc etc without the landowners permission. All of which I have seen!!" He then goes on name a number of other sections of Benyon's lease which are also "defenatly NON-NAVIGABLE". Members of the association have proposed their own solutions to the access issue, such as casting at canoes with "a three-ounce zip lead, trebles and 50lb-whiplash braid". "Trebles" means a set of three fishing hooks, welded together at opposing angles. I would have liked to pursue the question of what advice Benyon's office has given to its tenants, but after confirming that his estate has "interests" on the Kennet and the Pang, and that it regards the Pang as closed, it told me: "We have nothing further to add to our comments." It is wholly inappropriate that Benyon should be permitted to oversee a highly sensitive issue in which he has an active proprietorial stake. He seems incapable of standing back from his own interests. In fact the nature of his brief makes it impossible for him to do so. If he had any sense of what democracy means, and how it differs from government by the aristocracy, he would spare himself further embarrassment and stand down. www.monbiot.com
Comments for this discussion are now closed. 148 comments. Showing conversations, sorted timguvnor 04 April 2013 2:03pm Recommend 35 The Benyon estate also owns large chunks of London, including huge swaths of De Beauvoir Town, N1, just above Shoreditch, east London. This man is the very definition of landowner NewRedDawn 04 April 2013 2:17pm Recommend 70 it'll get to the point if something isn't done, that we need a Chavez type figure to correct matters. James86 04 April 2013 2:48pm Recommend 40 Have you ever considered entering politics George? Would provide a nice shake up and well needed injection of sense to the disconnected elite.
amberjack 04 April 2013 6:16pm Recommend 18 @James86 - Agreed. You know, George, that if you were an MP you could ask all these questions and more on the floor of the House under parliamentary privilege, and the answers would be recorded in Hansard for all to see? I reckon you really ought to stand. UnevenSurface 05 April 2013 8:48am Recommend 10 @James86 - But then where would investigative journalism be in the UK? As far as I can see, Mr Monbiot is pretty much it. MPs (though admittedly not ethical ones) are ten a penny. ID049580 04 April 2013 2:53pm Recommend 30 Absolute power corrupts! One day we will see a shift in power, I pray it is a voluntary one rather than a messy insurrection, led by the have-nots, the down-trodden and the disenfranchised. That day is closer than most expect, but it is coming. encrustedworm 04 April 2013 2:58pm Recommend 96 One of the best articles on the guardian in ages. Despite my political disagreements with George he is a genuine investigative journalist. His repeated exposure of Benyon is fantastic. I don't understand how he has stayed in office. TheDoje 04 April 2013 3:02pm Recommend 26 He doesnt own a fleet of fishing boats as well by any chance? I am trying to work how his motives for not agreeing to all the proposed MCZs. Horrible little man. Ironspider 05 April 2013 7:49am Recommend 1 @TheDoje - The MCZs issue is one of economics - the government won't fund the implementation of all 127 in one go. Also, in some instances, the under-pinning scientific assessment isn't complete SteB1 04 April 2013 3:20pm Recommend 53 The result is that Richard Benyon, the minister in question, is so enmeshed in potential conflicts of interest that were he to recuse himself from all the issues in which he has a personal stake, he would have nothing to do but order the departmental paperclips. Ah Richard Benyon, Minister for the Countryside Allliars (Alliance). It's very difficult to understand what this man is doing in this job. It would have been less surprising if Cameron had asked Rupert Murdoch to lead the inquiry into phone hacking.
Now here's where it gets interesting. The landowners seem to be asserting a power to exclude that they do not possess. Going back to the 15th century and beyond, there appears to be a general right of navigation on all rivers. As the campaign River Access for All points out, this right was tested in the high court in 2002 (Josie Rowland v Environment Agency, case number HC 0102371.) Mr Justice Lightman ruled that the: "Public Right of Navigation [PRN] may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers or by destruction of the subject matter of PRN eg through silting up of the watercourse." This is very interesting. I could never figure out where this non-right of navigation came from. Firstly most rivers of any size were used for navigation, and secondly our highly enclosed, highly private countryside is not so old. From what you say the landowners just made it up. The Angling Trust lobbies politicians to prevent the recognition of wider rights of access. It is wellplaced to do so: its national campaigns co-ordinator is the MP Martin Salter. I suspect that on this issue and on others the trust is an embarrassment to some of the anglers it claims to represent. I have met plenty of fisherfolk who have both strong democratic instincts and a great love of wildlife, positions the Angling Trust does not appear to share. I wonder how many would support, for example, the trust's demand that the government should "authorise the trapping and lethal control" of any beavers spreading from Scotland into England. I haven't fished regularly for a long time, although I used to be a very keen angler myself. The organizations have changed a bit. This Angling Trust wasn't around, and game fishing interests were quite separate from the more working class coarse angling. There are a lot of strange agendas aroiund in angling now, from calls to cull Otters and Cormorants. This is unrecognizable to me from years back when most the anglers I knew would have counted themselves as conservationists. My impression when I looked into it a bit more, is actually most of the more damaging things are being promoted by relatively few agitators. His estate office tells me that it regards its section of the Pang as closed to kayaks and canoes (in other words "non-navigable"). Benyon leases his fishing on the Kennet to the Reading and District Angling Association (RDAA). Here, his office conceded, "the entire stretch is fully navigable by water craft." This is indisputable: the right of boats to use this water is spelt out in the 1715 Kennet Navigation Act. But has Benyon's Englefield Estate transmitted this fact to the association? The RDAA's fisheries officer says this on its forum: "Lower Benyons from the weir downstream ... is most defenatly [sic] NON-NAVIGABLE. That means no boats, dingies, rubber rings surf boards etc etc without the landowners permission. All of which I have seen!!" He then goes on name a number of other sections of Benyon's lease which are also "defenatly NON-NAVIGABLE". How can this go on? It's CORRUPTION! How the hell can one government minister involve himself in so many things, which he has a vested interest in, and he be allowed to continue doing this. You just couldn't make it up. theomatica 04 April 2013 11:46pm Recommend 3 @SteB1 There are a lot of strange agendas around in angling now, from calls to cull Otters and Cormorants A number studies do suggest that Cormorant predation can have a serious impact on fish populations on certain river systems. johnypaty 05 April 2013 6:24am Recommend 7
@SteB1 - ´´I haven't fished regularly for a long time, although I used to be a very keen angler myself. ´…………….. when most the anglers I knew would have counted themselves as conservationists’’. Likewise StBe1; except I stopped coarse angling primarily because of the use of the line shot being the metal lead & secondly because of the supposed ‘pain’ that fish could feel once hooked. When I stopped fishing this point was contentious & very debatable, but I preferred to err on the side of caution. I missed the peace & quiet though of sitting on the Yorkshire river banks, solving everything! Sorry GM I have digressed from your main article; yet another relevant piece. ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:12pm Recommend 13 @theomatica - As serious an impact as that of anglers themselves with their careless discarding of hooks, lead, and tangled lines? Not to mention the litter many leave behind on what is often little more than a glorified piss-up. foolisholdman 07 April 2013 10:28am Recommend 2 @SteB1 How can this go on? It's CORRUPTION! How the hell can one government minister involve himself in so many things, which he has a vested interest in, and he be allowed to continue doing this. You just couldn't make it up. Having seen off the Communists and the Socialists, the trade unionists and demoralised, divided and dumbed down the Working Classes, the Ruling class is now discarding the pretence of democracy that has somewhat cramped its style for the last dozen decades or so, or looked at another way since 1644. or even 1297! The Ruling Class rules (by definition), they used to like to pretend that this was a myth that the wicked Marxists had made up, but now they are feeling so powerful that they can hardly be bothered with the pretence. PhilipChapman 04 April 2013 3:47pm Recommend 77 Perhaps a useful tactic could be to organise a new wave of coordinated mass trespasses. A hoard of canoes on the Kennet might be an interesting summer event. TypingWithToes 04 April 2013 3:54pm Recommend 15 Kinder Trespass ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:13pm Recommend 2 @TypingWithToes - Brilliant. Skybluewater 04 April 2013 3:55pm Recommend 55
Benyon is, for me, one of the main reasons I'll never vote Tory again. The party has been taken over by obnoxious snotty rich kids pursuing their own ant-social interests. Never thought I'd hear myself say it, but we need a revolution. Skybluewater 04 April 2013 3:57pm Recommend 29 Even on the Wye a tweedy little tosser tried to hurry us through 'his' salmon pool a few years ago. There were eight of us in four canoes and we ignored him - maybe mass trespass is the answer. Simon Wyndham 04 April 2013 4:17pm Recommend 39 To take canoes and kayaks on a river would not be a mass trespass. The right to navigate already exists. It would instead be an assertion of rights. This is an issue that needs wider coverage. The vast majority of the public is unaware of the situation regarding our rivers. It is every bit as big as the forest sell off scandal a few years back, and deserves to be pushed more to the fore. What is utterly ridiculous in all of this is that Martin Salter is AFAIK in charge of one of the fishing stretches through Benyon's estate. Who'd have thought, an ex-Labour MP in cahoots with an existing Tory one! Not only that, but an ex-Labour MP who, in his time in office, campaigned for the rights of the privileged few! Jon Simmo 04 April 2013 4:19pm Recommend 16 to organise a new wave of coordinated mass trespasses. But in England and Wales, canoeists and others have formal rights of access to only 3% of our rivers: 1,400 out of 42,700 miles. Everywhere else we are told we are trespassing. As far as I can tell (and with reference to such sites as http://www.riveraccessforall.co.uk/) there is NO law that prevents our (canoeists, kayakers, anglers, wild swimmers etc) utilisation of most of the other 97% of non-tidal waterways. Therefore being on such waterways is not trespass, (mass or otherwise). Going over someones private land to get on the water may well be trespassing, being on the water itself is not. I.e. it is lawful until proven in the courts that it is not, and in this regard Benyon is irrelevant. He has an opinion and is entitled to it, but water, like air belongs to us all. It is there to be enjoyed by us all, with respect to other water users and the communities though which such waterways pass. foolisholdman 07 April 2013 10:36am Recommend 0 @Jon Simmo I.e. it is lawful until proven in the courts that it is not, and in this regard Benyon is irrelevant. He has an opinion and is entitled to it, but water, like air belongs to us all. It is there to be enjoyed by us all, with respect to other water users and the communities though which such waterways pass. Yes, all you need then is an upright judge. Bangorstu 04 April 2013 4:32pm
Recommend 6 Why has Monbiot not mentioned that in Wales, where he lives, the governmental body dealing with biodiversity issues has been abolished? Would that be because LAbour did it? JMason 05 April 2013 10:25am Recommend 15 @Bangorstu - just to clarify your point. The Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and Forestry Commission Wales have been merged into a new body: Natural Resources Wales. Gogol 04 April 2013 4:51pm Recommend 17 Superb investigation ,George! Keep on gathering the killer facts [as does Noam Chomsky]. But what is the opposition doing about this? Serious proposals for land reform are needed but blanket land taxes , as discussed in your previous blog, may not be the best solution for genuine farmers, and more targeted action against large land holdings will be needed, but with a broader environmental perspective. As some have already commented , this means revolutionary change. antipodean1 04 April 2013 8:48pm Recommend 7 @Gogol Serious proposals for land reform are needed but blanket land taxes , as discussed in your previous blog, may not be the best solution for genuine farmers, and more targeted action against large land holdings will be needed, but with a broader environmental perspective Excellent comment. foolisholdman 07 April 2013 10:39am Recommend 2 @Gogol Superb investigation ,George! Keep on gathering the killer facts [as does Noam Chomsky]. But what is the opposition doing about this? What opposition? FlashyGreenEyes 04 April 2013 5:38pm Recommend 25 No politician can act democractically and impartially with so many vested interests and above all no minister protects the environment if in doing so he shoots himself in the pocket. There can be no clearer example of this that Benyon himself who has shown at every opportunity he acts only in his own interests and its at the grave detriment of our natural resources. However, things are so dire the environment and the seas can't afford another few years in these hands. How about I set up a petition to request his resignation? and then we can take our petition and stand up against corruption. Riemannian 05 April 2013 12:48am
Recommend 5 @FlashyGreenEyes - Yes, do it. FlashyGreenEyes 05 April 2013 9:26pm Recommend 5 @Riemannian - http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/mr-richard-benyon-resign-2 Andrew Youngs 09 April 2013 3:44am Recommend 0 @FlashyGreenEyes - I'll sign it. As far as I'm concerned he's got no business in DEFRA or the Government. The man's incompetant and a disgrace to the demochratic process. DJ59 04 April 2013 5:45pm Recommend 18 As an angler, I was always told that canoes stopped fish from rising. As a paddler I have seen that this isn't the case. I have paddled a large open canoe down a narrow Cumbrian river and seen fish rising immediately ahead. They have continued to rise close behind the boat as we passed. FredinSpain 04 April 2013 5:59pm Recommend 27 It is an excellent article and well researched but I fear it is just the tip of the iceberg as regards the influence that this tiny percentage of large landowners has on society as a whole. They are becoming more blatant in the exercise of their power and the flaunting of their wealth just like the French aristocracy did prior to 1789. That ended well for them didn't it but are Britons now so bloody apathetic to do anything other than get excited about another royal brat. As for Benyon the man is a disgrace. It was reported in 2012 that whilst Wildlife Minister he refused a request from other MPs that possession of carbofuran, a deadly poison used to kill raptors that is banned in Canada and the European Union, should be made a criminal offence. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was quoted as saying: "The minister's shocking refusal to outlaw the possession of a poison used only by rogue gamekeepers to illegally kill birds of prey would be inexplicable were it not for his own cosy links to the shooting lobby." Also in 2012, Benyon's neighbours complained when Hanson Aggregates were given permission to extract 200,000 tonnes of sand and gravel a year from woodlands on Benyon's family estate leading it to be described as a bombsite. Benyon said that the estate was controlled by a family trust. In 2013 Benyon succeeded in preventing any cuts in fishing quotas. He claimed that if British fishermen had their quotas cut they would dump even more fish overboard, and the more fish they are allowed to catch, the better it will be for “the health of our seas”. In 2004, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution proposed that 30% of the United Kingdom’s waters should become reserves preventing fishing or any other kind of extraction. CforCynic 04 April 2013 6:22pm
Recommend 10 We have no right to our rivers while Richard Benyon's interests are served Huh? This headline makes absolutely no sense when you take Rowland v Environment Agency into account. What it should say is We have a right to our rivers, but Richard Benyon would rather you didn't know about it! foolisholdman 07 April 2013 10:44am Recommend 0 @CforCynic We have no right to our rivers while Richard Benyon's interests are served Huh? This headline makes absolutely no sense when you take Rowland v Environment Agency into account. What it should say is We have a right to our rivers, but Richard Benyon would rather you didn't know about it! Right! Spot on! FlashyGreenEyes 04 April 2013 6:28pm Recommend 19 HOW ABOUT I SET UP A PETITION TO REQUEST HIS RESIGNATION? then lets see if public opinion can take a stand against corruption Ralph Hobbs 05 April 2013 4:15pm Recommend 0 @FlashyGreenEyes - And Paterson while you are at it :-) FlashyGreenEyes 05 April 2013 9:25pm Recommend 1 @Ralph Hobbs - http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/mr-richard-benyon-resign-2 TBombadil 04 April 2013 6:28pm Recommend 11 Why haven't these estates been split up or sold off under inheritance tax rules? Many large houses went to the National Trust but it appears that some estates have escaped. perhaps the rules on inheritance tax need tightening. WoodwardRobert 04 April 2013 11:28pm Recommend 14 @TBombadil I think you will find that many of these estates are not owned in the legal sense by those that enjoy and benefit from them. They are owned by trusts and companies based in offshore tax havens. As such they are not subject to inheritance tax law.
AnEmptyHourglass 04 April 2013 7:02pm Recommend 7 Paddle down the Wye during the school holidays when - because it is among the very few rivers where canoes are permitted - the river becomes extremely busy, and you'll see a sight which immediately destroys the claim that fishing and canoeing are incompatible: trout rising all around the boats. Where fish are accustomed to them, they quickly lose their fear. I lived for some years in a little old fibreglass river cruiser near a river in the UK (being unable to afford a house or rent initially, and finding the financial advantages of not living in a house too great to ignore later). Boats and fishing are perfectly compatible. Sometimes fishermen sulk a bit as you motor up to them and they need to pull in their line, but on the whole the two parties tend to largely ignore each other as much as possible. Canoes can be interesting - having so much less freeboard and weighing so much less, there is a real responsibility on the boater in the larger vessel to consider their interests. Personally I think everyone should have right of access for these sorts of use - canoeists are surely the lowest impact on the river - not running fossil fuel burning engines, not inflicting pain on the fish (though I'm all for fishing for food - the UK rivers can't meaningfully support the population for food). Am I right in thinking that - given that vessels have every right to navigate anywhere on the navigable waterway - that GM is mostly talking about right of access to the banks to launch or retrieve a canoe? Once you're on the waterway I should have thought you could go anywhere on it, as I could. pinkrobbo 04 April 2013 7:08pm Recommend 22 The trespass laws in the country are a disgrace, whatever the situation on the rivers themselves. I live in a chalk river valley in Kent, and, with the exception of a couple of hundred yards in the middle of my village, there is not one foot of the river along the valley that I am allowed near enough to even see the water -unless I drive over a bridge. Aggressive signs warn against insurgency every twenty yards or so, complete with threats and examples of legal action against any scum found within site of the river. The entire river is simply hidden, out of bounds to everyone except the landowners and members of expensive private fishing clubs. Somehow an entire major natural feature of the countryside has been co-opted, stolen, by a tiny minority. A while ago I was forced off a river bank walk by a landowner who claimed I was disturbing the wildlife. She had driven a mile or so along the bank in a 4x4 to tell me this. How the hell has this situation become accepted? Mass trespasses must happen. Is there anyone out there in Kent who wants to piss off some landowners Andyduz 04 April 2013 9:27pm Recommend 2 @pinkrobbo Hello again Pinky Maybe the poor landowner though it was the wolf man worrying her sheep. That said, she probably had a lucky escape considering it's currently mating season in the idyllic chalky river valleys of the Kent countryside. pinkrobbo
05 April 2013 10:04am Recommend 3 @Andyduz True. I was worrying her sheep by discussing climate change with them. And she doesn't know what she was missing. By the way, you've just dropped a bit of Potnoodle down your vest. deadofnight 04 April 2013 7:17pm Recommend 3 Labour MP. An Oxymoron if ever there was one Martin Salter - muckspReadingwww.muckspreading.com/? May 9, 2012 – "I have heard that Martin Salter was seen during the .... He spent 3 years dossing about at Sussex University; he left before gaining a degree, saying 'academic life was not for him - "I wanted to do politics, not study it"'. Martin Salter has, after 12 years at Westminster, reached the final round of the MPs' pension scheme and the gravy train for ex-Labour politicians of directorships and lobby groups. Many questions have been asked of him in that time: Did he really vote against the Iraq war like he told everyone? Was Liz Longhurst really in his constituency? Why did he vote for Post Office closures whilst telling everyone he was against them? What every happened to his official complaint about Reading Borough Council that he'd told the press he'd sent to the Information Commissioner? It's now his last question as he faces... who wants to be a millionaire? twicezero 04 April 2013 9:53pm Recommend 0 a mass paddle on a single river, though a lot of fun, might not be ideal around. I'd certainly want to be careful of the environmental impact of many many paddlers entering and exiting a small stretch of river. Getting out there and paddling however is a great idea. Go do it, responsibly :) . Rhodri Anderson 04 April 2013 10:01pm Recommend 2 Great article. It would be excellent to see it in ink. Smogbound 04 April 2013 11:03pm Recommend 2 I can't say I want the common man t have any more land than he already has: he builds, paves or tarmacs it over, effectively trashing it. Its only a few days since I made a similar comment on a thread here about the disappearance of garden birds, yet that's been long enough for another skip to arrive in my street and for another front garden to be scraped up into it. ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:24pm Recommend 6 @Smogbound - The answer to that is to limit the number of cars which can be owned by any single
household coupled with real investment in decent, subsidised public transport. citizenJA 06 April 2013 10:25pm Recommend 1 @ToshofSuberbaville Excellent suggestion. Douglas Malpus 04 April 2013 11:28pm Recommend 18 Benyon is totally unfit for purpose. Add to the points above his refusal to make, owning/holding the illegal pesticide, carbofuran, a criminal offence. The gamekeepers choice for poisoning birds of prey. The case against him for destroying moorland blanket bog on his grouse moor, another habitat destroyed by him, strangely dropped. It stinks of friends in high places!!!! In a democratic system the biased elite have no place in government. But it all about jobs for the boys, regardless of their vested interests. Corruption in our government is far too obvious and they don't care. The current government is pushing our people to rebellion, I would hate to see it happen but.... foolisholdman 07 April 2013 11:09am Recommend 0 @Douglas Malpus In a democratic system the biased elite have no place in government. In the Aristocratic system which is what we have, the Demos has no place in government. mike_a 04 April 2013 11:33pm Recommend 11 I can understand landed Tory MP's not wanting to let the riff raff onto the rivers in THEIR manicured and profitable back yards, but I could never understand why Labour excluded river access from the right to roam act at the very last minute? However, given Caffyn's work, it does now appear that failure to include access to water in the CROW does not actually matter. The law appears to be clear, we just need the message to be put out there to the masses. I am fed up with being threatened / generally shouted at when simply going about my passtime, this needs sorting! Douglas Malpus 04 April 2013 11:39pm Recommend 5 Perhaps the wealthy should have a proportionate "bedroom tax" based on their overall riches. Bet they would soon change the rules if it was their pockets being hit. Newtownian1 05 April 2013 12:15am Recommend 9
And privatization and commercialization is what is proposed to conserve nature the world? More like a mechanism to turn what little is left into hunting preserves for the emperors and their vassals. In Australia and New Zealand another model is being added - hunting in National Parks - supposedly for feral pests but the licenses are to be for people with no experience other than a degree in sadism. Riemannian 05 April 2013 12:29am Recommend 9 I just can't believe this stuff. We live in a faux democracy at best. Will there ever come a day when we have a true government by the people for the people or are we forever condemned to this baton passing from one elite generation to the next, whose raison d'etre is to simply further their own interests? steeply 05 April 2013 12:30am Recommend 12 Thank you George Another illuminating and damning article When I think back to the hope and ideas of the 70's it is remarkable how we seem to have made no progress in so many areas of the enviroment and democracy I can't imagine much less than a revolution to change half of what is wrong foolisholdman 07 April 2013 11:15am Recommend 1 @steeply - <blockquote>Thank you George Another illuminating and damning article When I think back to the hope and ideas of the 70's it is remarkable how we seem to have made no progress in so many areas of the enviroment and democracy I can't imagine much less than a revolution to change half of what is wrong I am sure you are right. No Ruling Class in history ever gave up any of its power unless it was forced to. unsubscriber 05 April 2013 2:58am Recommend 4 Great piece George, thank you. Suggestion: enlist Rupert Murdoch to the cause of free access to waterways. After all, Tony Abbott and his Tory "think tank" boys in Australia just gave a standing ovation to Rupert's address on "the morality of the free market". Not kidding. viper217 05 April 2013 3:30am Recommend 7 A Public Standards Committee issue, Direct conflict of interest, or perceived conflict of interest in Public office. Report him to the Parliamentary Standards body for personal gain. It doesn't have to be monetary gain, it can be gain from abusing a position of power while not divesting his duties competently while
weilding the autority of his office. It brings national government and the Governance of public office into disrepute. Once again the Tories are in office and the Corruption spreads through every department. Tailspin 05 April 2013 3:55am Recommend 5 What's the fuss about? If canoeing is legal just do it. It is definitely illegal to attack or threaten canoeists so make sure you take the helmet cam with you for evidence. ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:29pm Recommend 5 @Tailspin - While good for gathering evidence I'm sure the rural thugs will be happy to destroy your evidence, content to manufacture evidence in defence of their own actions, and it won't stop you getting a beating or damage to your boat. Maybe a licensed shotgun would be better understood by these morons? citizenJA 06 April 2013 10:31pm Recommend 0 @ToshofSuberbaville Guns aren't necessary. Large groups of friendly, picnic/canoe parties floating by are less vulnerable & it sounds like a great summer activity. curlybracket 05 April 2013 4:25am Recommend 9 These non-government organisations interested in rural affairs (Ramblers, Anglers, Canoeists etc) should refuse to have any dealings with the government while Benyon is Minister for Rural Affairs. By participating in consultations (does Benyon do consultation or does he just hand down decress to the masses ?), they provide the government and Benyon with some kind of legitimacy. Boycotting the government while Benyon is in position would remove all credibility from its decisions. curlybracket 05 April 2013 4:28am Recommend 1 oops, that should be "decrees" Ironspider 05 April 2013 7:46am Recommend 3 Is this an example of 'gamekeeper turned poacher'? thesnufkin 05 April 2013 8:09am Recommend 10 George, you didn't mention the burning of Walshaw Moor.
Why did Natural England drop their objection to the buring of a sensitivev blanket bog, whilst just a few miles away near Glossop (and me) they're spending a fortune using helicopters to rebuild exactly the same habitat? Everyone suspects a minister had a word in someones shell like, though we can't prove it. MarkLloyd 05 April 2013 8:23am Recommend 5 I read this article with dismay. In it he extends his vendetta against Richard Benyon, one of the few fisheries ministers who actually understands fishing, to an attack on the rights of millions of anglers and the organisation that exists to defend them. He trots out the same illogical and utterly false argument that the British Canoe Union (BCU) has recently adopted: that the law stopping people canoeing wherever and whenever they like needs to be changed, while denying that any such law exists. Both the BCU and Monbiot are causing confusion among the paddling public by promoting the work of one MSc student who wrote a thesis along these lines some years ago. Like many student theses, it has no foundation in truth or reality. The law has been repeatedly confirmed by the courts and is absolutely clear: there is no universal right for people to canoe on non-tidal waters. Canoeists have no more of a right to use rivers as they please than anyone does to camp in Mr Monbiot’s garden without his permission. There are also fishing rights held separately from the land, often by fishing clubs who are anything but wealthy landowners with a “hegemonic grip on the countryside”, but working men and women who pay a subscription to fish in peace. Public rights of navigation do exist in some places but they are the exception. Everywhere else canoeing is only allowed with the permission of the people who hold property and fishing rights. This has been confirmed by both the English and Welsh governments, who support voluntary access agreements, as we do. Monbiot claims that the BCU has been thwarted in trying to reach such agreements by landowners. This is utterly false; the truth is that the BCU has repeatedly ordered its officers not to sign agreements drafted locally with angling clubs and landowners unless they are for unrestricted access. In Canada, a free-for-all works fine, but we live on a crowded island where restrictions are necessary. Anglers buy licences, pay permits and respect close seasons for this reason. He goes on to claim that the Angling Trust does not have strong democratic instincts or a love of wildlife. Our position on canoeing is entirely supported by our membership and anglers have done far more than any other group to fight pollution and restore water habitats. The Angling Trust and Fish Legal devote most of our time and resources to lobbying, campaigning and taking legal action to protect the water environment, for the benefit of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Yours faithfully, Mark Lloyd Chief Executive Angling Trust & Fish Legal Jon Simmo 05 April 2013 9:33am Recommend 19 @MarkLloyd The law has been repeatedly confirmed. Please can you confirm that law you are referring to? unless you can do this, doe you not agree that the whole of your posting is purely your opinon? Skybluewater
05 April 2013 10:39am Recommend 18 @MarkLloyd The Angling Trust and Fish Legal devote most of our time and resources to lobbying, campaigning and taking legal action to protect the water environment, for the benefit of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Apart from otters. Geeky_Disco 05 April 2013 10:57am Recommend 18 @MarkLloyd 05 April 2013 8:23am. Get cifFix for Firefox. "he extends his vendetta against Richard Benyon, one of the few fisheries ministers who actually understands fishing" You mean he is in your pocket, right? If you are so sure the law is on your side then you won't mind a few paddlers testing that theory will you? Oh, and by the way, if our natural resources, such as waterways, are not open to the general public then they bloody well should be. WeWillFall 05 April 2013 10:59am Recommend 20 @MarkLloyd - "The Angling Trust and Fish Legal devote most of our time and resources to lobbying, campaigning and taking legal action to protect the water environment, for the benefit of fish and other aquatic wildlife." A little disingenuous there: you do what you do for the benefit of anglers. Nothing wrong with that in itself, except by what right does the desire of your members to hoick fish out of the rivers "in peace" take precedence over the rest of us wanting to be able to appreciate those rivers in peace ourselves? calmeilles 05 April 2013 11:01am Recommend 28 @MarkLloyd 05 April 2013 8:23am. Get cifFix for Chrome. The law has been repeatedly confirmed by the courts and is absolutely clear: there is no universal right for people to canoe on non-tidal waters. Why do you make such a statement when it is shown not to be true by a citation in the article? Rowland v The Environment Agency, Court of Appeal - Chancery Division, December 19, 2002,  2 WLR 1233, EWHC 2785 (Ch), 1 LLR 427, 1 All ER 625, 1 Lloyd's Rep 427, Ch 581. Case No: HC 0102371 Judgement, Mr Justice Lightman: Paragraph 50: Though Lord Hailsham at p.147 in Wills Trustees reserved his opinion whether a physical obstruction by a riparian owner might extinguish the PRN, the weight of authority militates against any such exception, and it is common ground in this case that the general principle which I have stated is free from any such exception. PRN may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers or by destruction of the subject matter of PRN e.g. through silting up of the watercourse. You are not only wrong you are egregiously so for surely the position you hold would require that you be aware of this.
ethicalfarming 05 April 2013 12:25pm Recommend 9 @MarkLloyd - cormorants are also aquatic wildlife and should be left to live and fish in peace. Simon Wyndham 05 April 2013 1:17pm Recommend 16 @MarkLloyd - If such a law to prevent a PRN on rivers exist then it shouldn't be too hard for you to quote the precise law you refer to chapter and verse so that we can all see it. There is NO case law that has ever established that canoeing is illegal. Quite the opposite in fact. Most of the case laws your organisation refers to when talking about access have been resolved on factors other than navigation. Further you go on to say that the BCU refuses to talk about access agreements unless there is assumption of a general right of navigation. You forgot to mention that they have only taken this position in the last couple of years, and were forced into this position not only by new research, but also by the simple fact that they had spent the previous 50 years or so banging their head against a wall trying to make access agreements work! Rather a convenient fact for you to leave out Mr Lloyd. But it all comes down to evidence. The paddling fraternity can show the evidence for PRN. You claim Caffyn's work is worthless, yet you have never actually tackled his evidence piece by piece despite being given the opportunity on many an occasion. Since his work was accepted for a Master Degree this is hardly "worthless", and since you do not appear to be able to show any shred of evidence to disprove his research I would suggest remaining quiet on the matter until you can do so! ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:37pm Recommend 12 @MarkLloyd - You and your angling friends are in denial. You are as much a part of the problem and interested only in privatising access to public spaces for your own benefit. Anglers, like all hunters, seek only to manipulate the environment in favour of your own narrow interests. You litter rivers with discarded hooks, lead weights and tangled lines in pursuit of rapidly diminishing fish stocks. The best way to protect the countryside is to allow open access as there are far more members of the public willing to stand up for the protection of open spaces and rural environments in general than there are those who would wish to abuse those rights. AndyBiddulph 05 April 2013 5:36pm Recommend 9 @MarkLloyd - Mark appears to live in complete ignorance of the rule of law. The 1472 Act for Wears & Fishgarths affirms that Magna Carta affirmed a public right of navigation on all rivers. Rowland v EA tells us that this can only be extinguished by legislation or the exercise of statutory powers. The onus is on the owner of the soil of the river to present such documentation which, if it existed, would be in the public record. Send them a legal notice giving them 28 days to present the documents. When they fail, go and paddle. Anyone attempting to stop you would be committing a public order offence. The number to ring is 999. I have done this in respect of Dovedale. Details on my web site http://www.andybiddulph.co.uk Fishing rights are the right to fish and imply no rights whatsoever to interfere with other people. Fish Legal can present nothing in the fishermen's titles, legislation, or case law to support fishermen's claims
to control navigation. The assertion, found in law books that there is no general right of navigation on non-tidal waters is based on a comment made in a commentary in 1830. This was not only based on a series of errors but was contrary to the legislation in force at the time i.e. the 1472 Act. Defra has failed to present any authority for its policy of voluntary access agreements in response to a petition to Parliament. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121211/petntext/121211p0001.htm Mark Lloyd's rant is without any foundation in fact or law. steeply 06 April 2013 12:42am Recommend 5 @MarkLloyd You seem to have completely ignored the garnering of land by a tiny minority who then exercise a fascist idiom of get off my property or be shot Which is a disturbing set of affairs that takes us back to feudal times Standing around holding a rod might do it for you but not for most families who just want to be able to see the countryside in their country citizenJA 06 April 2013 10:35pm Recommend 3 @MarkLloyd Take a recommend off your total. I became distraught reading your post & accidentally tapped the area. aussigit 05 April 2013 9:06am Recommend 6 Benyon, a nasty little creep, but I really fear that George will never win his arguments re. wildlife access etc etc, They, the landowners all too entrenched, they perceive the mass of mankind as only there to serve them and of course we are the great unwashed. Love the DEFANETLY of the RDAA, uneducated illiterates!... and what about our position with the neonicotinoids and bees? Guardian contributor DarrylGodden 05 April 2013 10:19am Recommend 7 Rich landowners - who knew this would still be a problem in 2013. foolisholdman 07 April 2013 11:32am Recommend 1 @DarrylGodden Rich landowners - who knew this would still be a problem in 2013. Mao said: "Where the broom does not reach, the dirt does not disappear of itself." Richard Bannister
05 April 2013 10:55am Recommend 21 @Mark Lloyd: It's precisely because we live 'on a crowded island' that we all need to get along, whatever your view of the law- anglers, swimmers, rowers, canoeists (three valid Olympic sports there!) My daughter is 2 years old and she is learning to share. Are you no better than a selfish 2 year old hogging the toys? When I fish, I have no problem with canoeists going past. and no, they don't disturb the fish. When I canoe, I have no problem with fishermen enjoying their day either. It's time to wake up and realise we're in the 21st century Mark. Dougdew99 05 April 2013 10:56am Recommend 15 Strangely Martin Salters view of the law is not shared by DEFRA.... "There is no clear case law on whether a 'common law right of navigation' exists on unregulated rivers. This is widely accepted to be an unclear and unresolved issue." See here http://www.riveraccessforall.co.uk/news.php#Lets Mr Salter has been making dark threats of suing canoeists this year. Yet another empty bullying threat by the landed gentry and their minions. Dougdew99 05 April 2013 11:00am Recommend 14 England and Wales are the only countries in the world where these ridiculous rights are claimed by land owners. Everywhere else all river users share without conflict. When you tell overseas paddlers what happens here, they cannot believe it. ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:45pm Recommend 11 @Dougdew99 - Yes - My Finnish friend suggested taking up canoeing as a hobby until I looked into it and discovered that to paddle on the Medway we needed to obtain and pay for licences. She wants to move back to Finland now because she can't believe how unjust the laws and conventions governing rural access in England actually are. Her reasoning is, how can she instil a sense of respect for the environment in her child if she is unable to experience that environment freely? edwinhamoo 05 April 2013 11:24am Recommend 14 Yet another potential conflict of interest is the fact that Benyon is an active member of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) serving on the commitee http://www.cla.org.uk/In_Your_Area/South_East/Regional_News_Archive/Politics/Rural_Economy_an d_Land_Use/ This organisation has incredible lobbying power, and is currently campaigning to shut down the government's Coastal Access programme. Benyon is the minister responsible for the programme! theharper 05 April 2013 11:36am
Recommend 0 While I've very little faith in Mr Benyon, I don't think his activities as riparian owner of much of the Kennet best illustrate the practice of 'elite' (your oft used words not mine) wealthy landowners excluding the rest of us. RDAA have leased the fishing rights on many stretches of the Kennet for as long as I can remember. It is principally a coarse fishing club, with a strong history in match angling. Anyone can join via an affiliated club of which a number offer open membership (e.g. Barbel Soc.). As a club it is as far removed as you can get from the £1000/day exclusive Salmon beats of the Tweed or £10000+ a season dry fly only 'dead mans' shoes' syndicates of the southern chalk streams. Of the many angling clubs I've joined for access to fishing RDAA is second only to BAA in what it offers in coarse angling on English rivers. The bottom line is really how much you are prepared to pay for your sport? There is absolutely nothing to stop Canoeing clubs/groups from out bidding angling interests for bank-side access to launch and meet up. I'm sure many riparian owners would welcome the extra revenue and be glad to see the back of the anglers. Most anglers I know appreciate that boats don't greatly disturb fish but people do. I've had no problem with canoeists but others claim to have, in particular with groups who appear to view an angler as a captive audience to display their skills to. You cannot seriously compare the Wye and the Pang in the sense that the lack of conflict on the mighty Wye precludes any on a relative dribble like the Pang. So you pay your whatever it is to ponce about in a tiny stream fluff chucking for trout, only to have to dodge yaks enjoying a freebie. Much as I can fantasize about your utopian freedom of access for all in the countryside, in practice it just doesn't work very well (tragedy of the commons and all that). Witness the litter, fires and yobbish behaviour on popular 'free fisheries'. Open membership Angling Clubs with their rules, restrictions, bailiffs, committees, AGMs etc... are about as close as you get to 'democracy' in the countryside at times. So I'm afraid the old adage 'you get what you pay for' still applies for many recreational activities. Take your Yak and your fishing rod to one of the RSPBs many wetland reserves and see how welcome you're made. Or imagine you've tickets for the first day of the Ashes at Lords, only to find the pitch is being shared with the Frog & Whippet rugby league club having a pre-season friendly! (In jest) BTW - As I know you're a stickler for well sourced, accurate info, I'd be very interested to know your sources for a couple you've mentioned. 2.5 million canoeists/yakkers, source please George? This seems an extremely high figure that would put it up there with the Ramblers, Birders and Anglers as the most popular countryside recreational pursuit in England. If this figure is accurate, then they have the potential to have a tremendous amount of clout if they can get their act together. Look at the RSPB and how many sites they now own and manage, there is no reason this success could not also translate to access rights for canoes, if an overseeing body can get the majority to stump up a measly tenner a year. redbanjoblue 05 April 2013 12:31pm Recommend 1 @theharper - Mr Moonbat's currency is not accuracy but emotion. Few of his articles bear close scrutiny (look at the ones about wind farms, for example) but he does a great job is stirring up that hard knot of resentment experienced by some of his more credulous readers, who end up agreeing with him regardless. Perhaps he's the left wing's answer to Richard Littlejohn. ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:50pm Recommend 7 @theharper - The Tragedy of the Commons was proved a fallacy years ago - even the author states he
deeply regrets his use of the term. Why should access to public space be auctioned off to the highest bidder? Do people on a low income not have a right to sensitively enjoy natural spaces as much as the wealthy with their abusive entitlement attitudes? pinkrobbo 06 April 2013 3:06pm Recommend 4 @redbanjoblue "Not accuracy but emotion..." Right. And your contribution here is chock-a-block with facts. Oh, wait, its just a witless and factless little rant. Funny that. mike_a 05 April 2013 11:54am Recommend 9 Theharper, why would canoeists, swimmers or rowers wish to bid for a right to extract fish? theharper 05 April 2013 12:56pm Recommend 0 @mike_a - They wouldn't, but they might for access to the banks? You have to put your yak in the river somewhere and presumably take it out again? Out in the countryside that access is largely private hence you may be asked to pay a fee for the pleasure. Similarly, if you want a club meet, parking, or club house like the rowers to store your kit or just get out of the water and dry off for a bit you may want to bid for the rights to private banks. Not hard or difficult to understand is it? ToshofSuberbaville 05 April 2013 2:52pm Recommend 7 @theharper - That is simply remedied by providing public footpath access to riverbanks at regular intervals. mike_a 05 April 2013 4:47pm Recommend 2 @theharper - If paddlers wanted to build a club house or car park beside the river then they would obviously have to buy or lease a plot of land and get appropriate permissions. But if they wanted to build such facilities, I cant see why they would have to purchase the riparian rights that give permission for the extraction of fish, ie fishing, as they would not be fishing. Access to the land beside a river is separate to, and therefore not controlled by, riparian rights. mike_a 05 April 2013 5:05pm Recommend 2 @mike_a - Sorry theharper, just re-read your post and I noticed that I took some of it slightly the wrong way.
So to recap - if other water users wished to build something then yes they would obviously have to either own the land or come to some sort of agreement with the owner. To simply access the river is another matter. ie what are the local area rules for general access to the river bank for walkers etc. I take it from your post above that as long as other water users (paddlers, rowers, swimmers etc) have legally accessed the water, you have no problems with said water user moving up or down the river to the next legal egress point. theharper 06 April 2013 9:52am Recommend 0 @mike_a - I don't disagree with either your or the other posters points, improved public access to rivers is something I strongly approve of. Unfortunately public footpaths currently don't give you the right to launch a boat from the bank or to moor it there. I'm afraid that currently open access is a utopian fantasy and I'm trying to put forward some real actions that can resolve the many recreational demands on watercourses. On short (less than a mile) narrow stretches of prime barbel fishery on the Kennet like Upper and Lower Benyons RDAA will always seek exclusive access. Hence, if you are that determined as a canoeist that you must have access to this stretch of river then bidding for exclusive rights is one option open to you, trespass is another. Essentially what you are bidding for are 'riparian rights' which includes the fishing rights whether you actually want them or not. I am near certain that this situation already exists on our rivers, as I remember hearing about a rapid stretch of river below a weir now being under the control of a canoeing club. On stillwaters it has been relatively commonplace for many years now. Waters that were once leased exclusively to anglers are now in shared use or lost to angling altogether for other recreation or wildlife concerns. The 2 most extreme examples I've had personal experience of were: 1. Chessington Reservoir - this was a CALPAC water with a very healthy stock of carp and tench in the 80's. Following a number of concerns the owner decided not to re-new their lease and exclusive rights of access and use was granted to a set of 'Yahoos' who like jet-skis. Some readers may know the water as it is behind the Zoo/Park and visible from a busy road. It is only a few acres, roughly circular, shallow, weedy with one small island. I was as bemused as the resident Swan population to witness folk buzzing around such a limited venue on jet-bikes. 2. Large North Lincs Quarry - this is a truly wicked site that includes a large, shallow chalk pit that was stocked and controlled by the angling club of the owners. Since they stopped working the area, exclusive rights were obtained by an off road 4WD club and if you want to fish there now you'll need to book yourself onto one of the limited number of 4WD events they're permitted to hold. The bottom line in somewhere like the Thames Valley, is we live in a complex, crowded, affluent society with many differing demands on space. I should imagine something like 20 million people live within in a hours clear drive of the Lower Benyons fishery. Is it really that big a deal that RDAA want roughly 1000 yards of river to themselves? Anyone who's worked in the management of National, Regional, or large County level parks (I have) will know that George's 'open access for all' is a naive and unworkable utopian dream. To preserve the value that make sites popular in the first instance you have to manage and often limit or restrict certain activities by permits or outright bans. Real world I'm afraid. Basically, I think pulling RDAA and angling in general into his love for trashing Mr Benyon is pretty weak stuff by George. I would have Benyon resign because he appears to be scientifically illiterate when it comes to badgers and birds of prey but not because he has a real interest in countryside
management. Would you prefer one of the new breed of career politician as a minister (Cameron, Milliband, Clegg et al) who's main interests appear to be PR and spin? Frankly, the fact that Benyon continues to honour RDAA long held fishing rights on the Kennet and is dismissive on canoeists sharing the same stretches is the only positive thing I've heard about him. I assume he is wealthy enough to deny access to all if he wished? Had George really wanted to make a strong case on this issue, then I would have thought the Balmoral Estate would have been the obvious place to start? redbanjoblue 05 April 2013 12:25pm Recommend 0 I'm surprised Mr Moonbat is taking any notice of the odd nutter that contributes to a forum for a fishing club in Reading. Every forum has it's fair share of nutters (this one is no exception). The fact is that landowners have very little direct involvement with the land the own and most is in the direct control of the tenants that use it. Equally, most tenants occupy very responsibly as it is in their own interests, long and short term, to do so. pinkrobbo 06 April 2013 3:07pm Recommend 3 @redbanjoblue Well that's ok then. So all those poisoned birds of prey are suicides- glad I know now
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