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British Canoeing and Canoe Wales’ statement regarding Public Rights of Navigation (PRN)

British Canoeing and Canoe Wales continue to commit resources to improve access to and along all our waterways – from rivers and canals to lakes and the coast.

We work closely with a wide range of organisations, partnerships, navigation authorities and environmental agencies to promote the interests of canoeists and kayakers, and the need for greater recognition of access rights.

The legal position for paddlers continues to be a hot topic, and we remain committed to securing greater recognition of the research conducted in the past 15 years which has challenged previous assumptions regarding the public’s right to navigate our waterways.

This issue has been in the spotlight recently following the threat of legal action relating to an issue on the River Dee, which led to a court claim being issued against a member of Canoe Wales. 

British Canoeing and Canoe Wales worked closely together to support the paddler in question who took independent legal advice. However, the case did not proceed to court as the angling clubs and paddler both decided to reach a compromise out of court. 

As such, no legal judgment was issued on navigation and access rights, either on the River Dee or regarding any universal PRN. The case does not provide any authority or precedent to suggest there is no general PRN and British Canoeing and Canoe Wales’ stance on such matters remains unchanged. 

We do however want to emphasise that both organisations want to encourage and promote responsible and sustainable use by all river users which means working together for the benefit of all who wish to enjoy our waterways.

Our position on the legal background to PRN matters, along with details of our stance regarding both Shared Use of our waterways and a Code of Conduct for paddlers can be found in our Position Statement on Shared Use, downloadable using the link below.

British Canoeing and Canoe Wales have made considerable efforts over the years to work towards increasing cooperation and partnership between user groups, landowners and other organisations on and around our rivers and lakes. 

We remain absolutely committed to this process so as to develop shared fair use arrangements which benefit all inland waterways users and we are fully supportive of initiatives which bring all river users together, to find genuinely cooperative solutions to facilitate access for all.

More information on our policy regarding Shared Use and developing positive partnerships between users can be found in our Position Statement on Shared Use and a Briefing Note on Trespass.