The issue of access to both land and water in Wales has been developing over the years, with heavy lobbying taking place particularly by Canoe Wales.
In June 2010 the Third Assembly’s Sustainability Committee published a report on its Inquiry into Access to Inland Water. Click here to see the report .
In 2013 SACC — Sustainable Access Campaign Cymru – was instigated, which is a coalition of organisations and individuals that support a common sense approach to public access to land and water in Wales. This is to benefit both users and landowners, and to provide better value for money for stretched public funds. The organisations and individuals are united in the belief that the current legal framework already balances the rights of landowners and conservation with the desire for access. SACC wants to see sensitive wildlife and fish spawning sites protected, members of the public kept safe from livestock, and to avoid conflict with legitimate users.
In 2014 the Welsh Government shelved its plans to impose universal access for canoes to rivers in Wales. Landowners and angling bodies had expressed their concern about the impact on wildlife, livestock and property rights of the proposals. More detail on this stage may be found in an Angling Trust news item.
In 2014 Fish Legal has become involved due to a steady increase in complaints from angling clubs and fishery owners about canoe trespass incidents. As stated in a news article (August 2014) by Angling Trust,
“Fish Legal has sent a legal ‘letter before action’ to the British Canoe Union (BCU), Canoe Wales (CW) and Canoe England (CE) demanding that they stop publishing information suggesting that there is a general right of navigation on non-tidal waterways in England and Wales, and/or that the law relating to navigation on rivers is unclear. There is no such general right of navigation in law and permission for access is required for people to use boats on rivers.”
Angling clubs and landowners so far have had great difficulties finalising voluntary access agreements because Canoe Wales has refused to allow its regional representatives to agree to any restrictions, insisting instead on access at all times and water heights.
In December 2018 WUF reported on the British Canoeing’s "Clear Access, Clear Waters" campaign. Although it focuses on England, it is the latest attempt to push for free, open access to all inland waterways. They have linked open access to helping cure the nation’s obesity and mental health problems and repairing the environment. As WUF states
“It is not, however, a report that depends on accurate factual evidence. In fact, the experience from our rivers contradicts many of its claims.”
You can see more of this news item here.