13 January 2007

Response from my MP regarding the Brighton Report

You may remember that a couple of weeks ago I posted up a template of a letter which could be sent to your Member of Parliament in response to the Brighton Report well today I got my reply from David Borrow MP for South Ribble. His actual reply was quite short, but it did say that he had raised my concerns with Margaret Beckett and with his letter was a copy of a letter he had received from a junior minister at DEFRA, Margaret Beckett's department, in reply to the concerns I had raised. It said:

"... I am a firm believer in the benefits of outdoor recreation whether on land or water. People make over a billion visits to the countryside each year, enjoying a wide range of recreational activities. Visitors are good for the local economy and people who exercise regularly are healthier than those who do not. So I am keen both to promote recreational activities, including canoeing, as widely as I can and to ensure the provision of increased opportunity to participate in such activities.
Our view is that increased access to water, for activities such as canoeing, can most effectively be achieved via the voluntary approach. This conclusion is based on the findings of two pieces of research. First, a Countryside Agency feasibility study on developing best practice for access agreements for canoeists on key stretches of water in England. Secondly, on research into the opportunities and demand for water-based sport and recreation, which we published in December 2001. The report, 'Water-Based Sport and Recreation: the facts', concludes that there is some unmet demands for white water and long distance routes for canoeists, but that for most canoeists, as for most other water users, overall supply is roughly in balance with demand.
As a result of this research we commissioned the Environment Agency to complete agreements in four pilot areas (the Teme, Waveney, Wear and Mersey) which were the subject of the feasibility study mentioned above. I recently announced that these agreements have been successfully concluded, and have delivered over 70km of new access. However these agreements were not just about increasing access on the rivers in question. The aim was to provide a template agreement which could be used in a variety of circumstances on different waterways, together with an access negotiation 'toolkit' based on experience gained in developing the agreements. This covers all aspects of the negotiation process including model forms for licenses, contractual agreements, and codes of conduct. Further details are available on the Environment Agency website.
The Mersey project also demonstrated the process by which landowners may dedicate land for access (including land covered by water) under section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. The effect of dedication is to preserve a public right of access in perpetuity. A number of landowners have agreed to dedicate access to the river and in one case the legal formalities are complete.
If we are to make real progress in opening up new opportunities for recreational access to inland water we also need to adopt a strategic approach to identify what access is needed, and where. DEFRA is supported by the Environment Agency in its proposals to work with other stakeholders in developing regional strategies. Plans for the first two regions will be in place in 2007.
By adopting the voluntary approach and developing regional plans I believe we will be able to deliver increased access where it is needed. I am convinced that this is the right approach."

Now I've just got to draft some sort of reply and send it off to Mr Borrow to see what response I can evoke. If anyone has got any ideas what should be included in the reply put a comment on this post. I'm off paddling tomorrow so check back sometime tomorrow evening to see what I got upto.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

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