Welsh Government asked to think again on access to Welsh inland waters

The Angling Trust, along with the Wye and Usk Foundation, the Welsh Salmon and Sea Trout Angling Association, the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, and Afonydd Cymru recently met with the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, to ask him to think again about finding a solution to the continuing conflict between anglers and paddlers on some Welsh rivers.

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said:

“We were pleased to meet with Minister Waters to discuss our concerns. The work that angling groups have done as part of the cross-sector group asked to look at possible options is important. We were concerned all that hard work was simply dismissed by the Minister in a letter he wrote to the Chair of the Welsh Access Forum in September. We are pleased he has agreed to look at the recommendation again.”

In May 2021. the Access to Water Sub-group of the National Access Forum Wales published a report looking at the issues and ways forward for ensuring equitable access to Welsh inland waters. This report was commission by the Welsh Government and the work of the Sub-Group overseen by Natural Resource Wales.

The report sets out a series of clear principles, including ensuring there is an equitable financial contribution to the upkeep and protection of inland rivers and waters by all stakeholders, the need to ensure environmental impacts are properly considered, and that future access is agreed between all parties. The report was drawn up by a cross section of stakeholders including representatives for anglers, paddlers, and landowners.

Writing to the chair of the Welsh Access Forum, Lee Waters commented: “I have reservations about the proposed model that includes charging for paddle sports, which may result in restricting access rather than broadening it, particularly for people on low incomes. I do not therefore propose to fund further work on this particular model at this stage.”

The meeting with the Deputy Minister challenged this view and presented information on the fact that as anglers we already make a financial contribution to the upkeep of our rivers, via our rod licences, and have to pay for access, via membership of clubs, purchase of day tickets, etc. We also pointed out the economic contribution angling makes to the Welsh economy and the number of jobs it supports.

The Minister also stated that due to a lack of capacity and resources in both the Welsh Government and NRW it would be difficult to move the recommendations of the report forward. We urged the Minister to think again, which he agreed to do. We are awaiting his response.

Chris Mills, Chair of Afonydd Cymru and a member of the Access to Water Sub-Group, said:

“It seems somewhat perverse for the previous Minister to ask stakeholders to find a joint practical solution to increasing access to water in Wales, for NRW to form that group which then recommends a way forward, only to be told that there are no resources to progress the initiative.”

Following on from the meeting with Mr Waters, we are seeking to meet with NRW and the National Access Forum to explore ways to move forward.

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