The Countryside Alliance, supported by the Angling Trust, rallied landowners, riparian owners and anglers from across Wales at the Royal Welsh Showground on Sunday 15th September for a meeting to discuss the Welsh Government’s review on increasing access to land and water.
On 22nd July the Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths announced a review of legislation which would increase access to the countryside and would include inland water. Welsh Government have since held two “workshops”, one focussing on access to land, and the possibility of opening up footpaths for multiple usage and the other, on access to inland water allowing paddle sports and wild swimming. It is evident from these workshops that they are looking towards adopting the “Scottish model” here in Wales.
The panel at Sunday’s meeting at the Royal Welsh Showground included Rachel Evans, Director for Wales at the Countryside Alliance, Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust, Paul Stafford, Solicitor, litigation lawyer and member of the river Dee Partnership and Malcolm Adams also of the Dee partnership. Those present were given invaluable advice on the legal position and clarity on myths of rights of navigation on non-tidal rivers as well as an example of a functional local voluntary access agreement set up between canoeists, anglers and landowners.
Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales said: “There has been much concern amongst our members since the announcement, particularly for everyone linked to the angling sector as we have been here before. 2010 saw a report from the National Assembly’s then Sustainability Committee on access to inland water. It was a fair and balanced report and favoured local voluntary access agreements.
“Credit should be given where it is due, angling clubs and landowners from across Wales came to the table with offerings of negotiations to use certain rivers in Wales. However, despite the goodwill of such people, other water users declined to sign any agreement, in favour of pressing Government for access legislation.
“The meeting was extremely well supported by other rural organisations and charities who were equally as concerned about current proposals. A delegation will meet again in the next week to discuss and progress with the proposals put forward at Sunday’s meeting.”