CANOEISTS have no public right of navigation along inland waterways, according to a leading barrister at a recent high court case.

David Hart, QC, provided unequivocal legal advice that helped win a recent legal case by Llangollen Maelor Anglers and Midland Flyfishers, supported by the Angling Trust’s Fish Legal, against a canoeist and stand-up paddleboarder using the River Dee in North Wales.

Andy Povey had paddled outside of an access arrangement and, when challenged by anglers, refused to say he would not trespass again and later boasted about his trespass online.

An application for an injunction to restrain Povey was sought and after some initial resistance, he decided he did not wish to fight the application.

But he has agreed to stick to the terms of the agreed access and to contribute towards the clubs’ legal costs.

This follows a court case in 2012 in which canoeist Andrew Biddulph issued a court claim against Burton-on-Trent Mutual AA claiming £4,000 in damages for interference with his right to navigate Derbyshire’s River Dove.

Biddulph withdrew and was later ordered to pay over £10,000 to Fish Legal in legal costs, some of which he continues to pay by monthly instalments.

Jason Lewis, owner of the Hampshire Avon’s renowned Royalty Fishery exclaimed: “I am not only concerned about the impact on anglers from canoeists but potential environmental threats, including the spread of diseases by irresponsible canoeists using waters without permission.

“The EA are toothless and really need more powers to tackle the problem head on.”

Trust and Fish Legal chief executive Mark Lloyd said: “We encourage our member clubs and fishery owners to provide more access to canoes and other water craft, but the canoeing governing bodies in England and Wales have made this very difficult by irresponsibly suggesting that paddlers may go where they like without permission and refusing to accept reasonable conditions within access arrangements.

“We hope that David Hart’s very clear legal advice and the costly experiences of Mr Povey and Mr Biddulph will now lead to a more sensible position from the canoeing governing bodies and the small minority of individual paddlers who have taken a militant approach to this issue in recent years.”

David Hart’s main 5 legal points

  • There is no general Public Right of Navigation on English and Welsh non-tidal rivers for canoeists.
  • A public right of navigation (PRN) can only be established by long use of vessels on the relevant stretch of river.
  • That use must have been regular and habitual, and must have made the river of substantial practical value as a channel of communication or transport.
  • The time for which that use must be established is ‘time immemorial.’
  • The law is entirely clear on the above issues.


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