Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
It may feel like groundhog day to Welsh anglers, but having successfully made their case when an access challenge was mounted by canoeists, the issue is back on the political agenda just a few months after the last bout. Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths AM has launched a consultation “Taking Forward Wales”, similar to a November 2016’s consultation “Taking Wales Forward” (no, I’m not kidding). While the Welsh Government seems to be running short of catchy titles for consultations, they are also covering old ground, and Welsh taxpayers are yet again footing the bill.
The nub of the access part of the consultation is a proposal to extend the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act to all rivers and inland waters, effectively offering open access to all inland water in Wales. Landowners, riparian owners and angling clubs agree that while improved access to inland water for recreation is welcomed, it needs to be managed and we can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ open access approach. While this is the same answer to the last consultation a few months ago, we will be diligent in making the case once more with feeling, and would be grateful if you would add your voice to ours and take part in our e-campaign.
Anglers have a point in feeling that the Government is ignoring their sector, not least because of the alarming recurrence in the same issue, despite thinking it had been resolved for years to come. As I mentioned, we have been here before, at great taxpayer expense, and while anglers are happy to compromise in order to reach a deal, canoeing bodies seem less so, appearing to want the Welsh Government to legislate in their favour rather than have to compromise.
The so-called “right to paddle” issue is just one of the proposals in this consultation, which also includes making footpaths accessible for horse riding and cycling. We will of course be responding to all the parts of the consultation which affect you, our members and supporters, and will keep you updated on progress. Let’s hope there isn’t another consultation before Christmas.
You can add your weight to our campaign by signing our response letter. I cannot stress how important it is that we once again defend our interests within this consultation. If you have ever cast a fly on a river in Wales, indulged in our network of footpaths, ridden through or shot over our rich landscape, please pass this letter far and wide and ask for support. Read the consultation in full.
For more information please contact our Director for Wales, Rachel Evans at [email protected]. Rachel will be at the Royal Welsh Show next week and will be happy to discuss this issue with you if you are at the show.
Follow Tim at @CA_TimB