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Rivers/Waterways

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will assess the viability of a policy of open access to rivers and waterways in England and Wales. (93150)

The Government have already assessed the viability of a policy of open access to rivers and waterways in England. We have no plans to provide a statutory right of access to water since research has shown that overall supply is roughly in balance with demand.

However, we recognise that there is some unmet demand for white water canoeing and canoe touring. Therefore, we are supporting the Environment Agency in its work with other stakeholders to develop regional strategies for water-related sport and recreation with the aim of identifying exactly what is needed and where. Plans for two pilot regions will be in place in 2007-08.

In addition, Defra commissioned the Environment Agency to pilot four demonstration projects to develop best practice access agreements for canoeists on key stretches of English water. This not only improves access in the areas in question but also provides a template that can be used elsewhere.

Promoting recreation, including access to rivers, is a devolved matter and, in Wales, is the responsibility of the National Assembly.