Welsh Government's consultation "Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation"
Consultation ended: 02/10/2015
How we respond:
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The Pirate Party UK and the Pirate Party of Wales (Plaid Môr-leidr Cymru) welcomes this consultation and the opportunity it provides for the people of Wales to influence the Government's thinking on these matters.
The independent campaign community Waters of Wales has noted that previous consultation responses included large amounts of people looking for improved access but these were almost completely obscured by a clamorous organised lobby against public access for responsible recreation.
While the Glossary includes a variety of means to access the outdoors, it completely neglects our waterways. Watersports, often held in rivers, lakes the sea or docks are avidly used by amateur enthusiasts, professional athletes, and youth sporting clubs such as Scouts.
David Elston, Pirate Party Deputy Leader said:
"On a recent trip to Northern Ireland's Lough Neagh, there were several places to park up and dock or launch from a small water craft. Other smaller lakes local to me include Cosmeston Lakes, which permit boat and small craft club users to enjoy the water too. I'm wholly surprised this consultation completely neglects access to this outdoor activity."
The waters in Wales are a natural resource without conflict but there are some who believe they are entitled to hold exclusive access to the water and waterside which can lead to conflict.
Our waters need a right of navigation, in the same way our land has a public right of access.
Please accept the Pirate Party UK's official response to the consultation "Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation".
Our stance can be summarised with the following statement:
If private rights have been sold or otherwise provided, these rights are held subject to the public right of access, by land or water.
The Pirate Party UK notes that the consultation does not include any reference to our waters in Wales.
Previously the Welsh Government supported a restrictive access arrangement on the Upper Wye. Similar arrangements are in force on other major rivers in Wales, such as on the Dee in North Wales. The Government's history gives the impression that they prefer to simply cut off access rather than encouraging equal access for all Welsh citizens for shared benefit to experience the natural resources of Wales and for the promotion of an increase in recreational and sporting activities.
The Environment Agency stated in 2005:
"Our support and instigation of access agreements on rivers where rights to navigate may or may not exist does not constitute a comment on whether such rights exist or not. Such agreements are a pragmatic approach to securing recreational opportunities for the public. It is not currently our policy to seek to investigate any such rights on the Upper Wye.
Of course it is open to individuals or organisations to assert a right they believe they have, and were any such rights to be challenged to seek their confirmation via a legal process. Were any rights to navigate on the Upper Wye be confirmed by the courts, we would of course, give due regard to any such judgement."
We believe that Wales needs a view of actively protecting our rights of way which should include the right to navigation over water. A Government that wishesis to protect public rights of access cannot do so in such an unreasonable or unsustainable manner.
The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) 2000 Act passed by UK Government and currently applicable to England and Wales aims to restrict opportunities for the public to exercise their right of navigation, by denying access for the purpose of water-based recreation from designated CRoW access land. If thise consultation is to aims to protect our rights of access, the reach of this law needs to be altered allowing access to Welsh waterways for the purpose of water-based recreation.
The current legislation in Wales is unclear, for all parties with exception of access for fishing. The Welsh Government has previously claimed that the legal position is unclear, but has done nothing to clarify the situation or protect public right of access/navigation. This consultation provides an opportunity for the Government to rectify the situation.
In the majority of EU member states the public position has been clarified in law. Scotland passed the Land Reform (Scotland) Act in 2003 while publishing the Outdoor Code. The Welsh Government has the powers to pass similar legislation but has so far chosen not to.
In Wales, the watersports should be allowed to play a significant role contributing to tourism, providing much-needed local jobs, and encouraging fitness and activity among all but especially among the young. The popular activity of fishing should not be allowed to dominate the discussion via disproportionate lobby funding, and should not be granted exclusive rights of access: all water-based recreation must be given equal treatment. Landowners' control of access to land bordering on Wales' water resources must not be allowed to constrain the right to navigate those waters and should not be used to prevent reasonable access to and from those waterways.
The Pirate Party UK and the Pirate Party of Wales (Plaid Môr-leidr Cymru) calls of the Welsh Government to:
- Recognise that it is empowered to pass legislation clarifying the right of access to land and waterways in Wales.
- Acknowledge the part played by Wales' waterways in encouraging sport and fitness among the young people of Wales.
- Encourage the valuable contribution made to the economy of Wales by tourism and jobs associated with the watersports industry.
- Legislate to facilitate reasonable access to waterways for the purposes of all water-based recreation.
- Deny prohibitions on navigation of Wales' waterways for reasons other than safety.