In the first of a new blog series, Places to Paddle Manager Ben Seal offers an insight into the recent work British Canoeing has been doing on Access and Environment.
Spring is an exciting time of year with new growth all around and the prospect of exciting things ahead in the coming months. Along the riverbanks leaves are beginning to return to the trees and families of newly born ducks are taking to the water. That sense of excitement for a new start has certainly been true within the Places to Paddle Team, with work on the new Access & Environment Charter picking up at pace.
In February and March the team visited all corners of the country, giving our 35,000 members an opportunity to hear our plans and shape the Charter vision. The feedback received was overwhelmingly supportive of a fresh initiative to campaign for clarity in the law. It was fantastic to meet so many people and take a range of views on the future of access policy.
One key thing taken away from the consultation events was that people were under no illusion that the scale of the challenge is huge; asking for legislative change is not something that comes about easily! Indeed British Canoeing (BCU and Canoe England) has fought on this subject before and the CRoW Act 2000 was a huge opportunity that was sadly lost – through no lack of effort. It remains as clear now as it did then, that if we want to have real clarity on rights of access, then the only way this will come about is to lobby Government for change.
With the feedback from consultation in hand and a draft of the Charter well underway, much of April and May was dedicated to meeting key partners, seeking advice, support and input to further develop our thinking. In April British Canoeing proudly became a member of the Wildlife & Countryside Link, an organisation who represent 48 other key partners and lobby Government on many key topics that affect our sport.
In May, CEO David Joy, Chair John Coyne and Ben travelled to London to meet John Grogan MP, Chair of the Inland Waterways All Party parliamentary group. It was a really productive meeting and it is hoped John will become a key ally in the months ahead as the Charter is launched. Other meetings with MP’s went ahead, with Andrew Griffiths (Burton & East Staffs) and Andrew Percy (Goole) all very supportive of the direction of travel.
Clearly there is a huge amount of work to be done on this front in summer and it will be essential to ensure our message is positive, consistent and clear. All things which our Charter aims to be.
Hopefully through future blogs and news we can keep the paddling community engaged with our plans and to date with all the efforts being made by the team and all the dedicated volunteers who support our work locally.