A river runs through it; but should canoes? Guest blog by Greenwoods Solicitors

07b 484b 5c 7bb 24fd 8b 39c 6a 66dab 052e 348a 2399Guest blog by Stephen Illingworth, Commercial Property Director at Greenwoods Solicitors

They say that an Englishman’s home is his castle, but that is less and less the case these days! Many statutory organisations can have access to your home without your consent. For example, some landowners next to the sea have subsequently had the Coastal Path imposed on their land.

But what about a river running through your property? Do canoeists and other individuals in water borne vessels have the right to navigate freely up and down your river? You may own the fishing rights but do you have to share the river?

If you are concerned about this, you firstly need to make sure that you own the river in question. If you own the land on both sides of the river, then you own the river itself. In more complex circumstances, ‘riparian rights’ will give you ownership of your nearest half of the river, with your neighbour on the other side owning the other half. This can be adjusted by arrangements or purchases with your neighbour.

As a matter of law, there is no general ‘Public Right of Navigation’ on English and Welsh non-tidal rivers. In other words, just because it is possible practically to navigate up and down a river, it does not necessarily follow that people have the right to do so.

However, canoeists, kayakers and users of similar vessels may not even consider if they have ‘rights of navigation’ before going out to explore. Of course, arrangements can be made with canoeing and boating clubs for their members to have access at certain times over rivers, but this is not a compulsory obligation for land owners.

The Welsh Assembly Government recently launched a consultation entitled ‘Taking Forward Wales; Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’ including a proposal to amend or revoke the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000.

This would provide access to canoes, rafts or even paddle boards on inland tidal water, rivers or inland waters anywhere, therefore overriding restrictions under the existing law.

This has caused a ripple of concern across both Wales and England:

  • Keen fisherman like myself are concerned due to the extreme disturbance that canoeists and other vessels cause along rivers;
  • Landowners are rightly concerned about the issues of trespass on to the adjoining fields and extra noise pollution;
  • Environmentalists are aware that extra traffic on rivers could disturb wildlife, with rivers acting as an important home for many animals, and creating additional litter in these areas;
  • There is also the matter of liability for land owners. Some rivers are plainly not safe for canoeists with the amount of rocks and rapids. What will a land owner’s insurance company say if there were an accident on your river? As river owner, do you owe users (legal and illegal) a duty of care?

In conclusion, it is important that owners of rivers keep a careful eye on canoeists using their rivers without consent, and plan carefully for how any changes to the current laws could affect you directly.

For more information about Greenwoods Solicitors and the services they provide visit their website.

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A River Runs Through It

at 14:58 on 23/01/2018 by Dr I A Gibb

The inflammatory aspect of the issue is that anglers usually pay one way or the other, either through day or season ticket purchase or through fishing club membership, for the right to fish. They also pay for a rod licence. Some if not all of that financial contribution goes towards river managementand conservation. Many canoeists think that they should be allowed completely free access, are unwilling to make any financial contribution to the conservation and management of the river they use and want to be free to pursue their activity at any time they choose - they are unwilling to consider others at all, rather that have agreements about where and when they can paddle.

A river runs through it; but should canoes?

at 12:49 on 23/01/2018 by Matt Wells

Yes is the short answer. Whilst canoeing and kayaking is a growing sport, the growth is conservative and ultimately finite on all but a handful of destination rivers like the Wye and the Spey. Canoe tourism - driven by the canoe hire companies is the issue in terms of environmental impact, as these businesses create easy access at scale. It's not really about individual enthusiasts on wild rivers. Even then, landowners with riparian rights need to take care - after all, the more people that experience the beauty of the British and Irish countryside the more likely said countryside will be protected from unscrupulous developers and ill-informed bureaucrats, so in the long-run to litigate could be shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. As a general rule field sports enthusiasts would be better placed adopting a live and let live approach to other recreational users of the same spaces. To behave any other way creates opposition where none existed. Imagine how the successful prosecution of a handful of recreational canoeists would play out on social media and in the press - we run the risk of creating an entirely new community of antis. We cannot be one-eyed about this - whilst canoes and other vessels can undoubtedly cause a disturbance that will put fish down - so can fellow anglers thrashing the beat ahead of us and on the subject of pollution, the biggest threat to fish stocks and fishing is not canoeists it's pollution run-off and poor habitat management, often by the aforementioned landowners. If liability is to become an issue from a landowner's perspective, how would this be different for a canoeing accident v's a fishing accident on the same stretch of river? From a personal injury litigation perspective, fishing looks like a much more obvious candidate for the no-win-no-fee brigade than canoeing and kayaking. I should state for the record that I am a keen fisherman and field sports enthusiast who happens to enjoy an occasional canoe trip.

A river runs through it.

at 12:46 on 23/01/2018 by M Seaman

Rivers are like the footpaths of the water, both should allow reasonable access.

A river runs through it

at 11:42 on 23/01/2018 by JABooth

I think we should re-think whether there should be any such thing as "river ownership". Ownership of the banks – along with the duty to maintain them – is one thing, but the river itself? Perhaps that, like the sea and common land, should be a public asset.

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