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British Canoeing renews Access & Environment Charter

British Canoeing has relaunched its Access & Environment Charter at a special event in Westminster.

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(Left to right) British Canoeing President Dee Paterson, Chief Executive Ashley Metcalfe, Head of Access Ben Seal and Professor John Coyne CBE.

The last charter, promoting the Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign, was published in 2018, and it set out our vision for fair, shared, sustainable access to waters in England and Wales.

Since then we have been through the Covid pandemic which reaffirmed our belief why access to blue space matters for our health and wellbeing.

Our event was hosted by Pauline Latham OBE MP and Kim Leadbeater MP, who both spoke at the event in support of our priorities for action.

Jim McMahon, the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also made a speech in which he expressed support for British Canoeing's vision.

He also expressed his disgust at the state of our rivers and called for water companies to take more responsibility.

"Let's hold the water company bosses to account," he said. "Let’s deliver not just good access, but good quality of life for working people too."

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Jim McMahon during his speech promoting British Canoeing's Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign.

Through our Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign we have done some great work in championing the case for change and to make a difference in protecting our blue spaces.

The new charter reaffirms those commitments set out five years ago, but we are tirelessly pushing for the policy changes we desire.

Change is more important than ever, and below are the priorities that we presented at our event in parliament.

  •  Expand our freedom to enjoy more of our inland waters
  • Go further, faster to recover our blue spaces from pollution
  • Educate, inspire and inform responsible, sustainable behaviour

Members of British Canoeing staff and our Board were joined by volunteer ambassadors, who were able to share their personal stories of why blue space matters so much to our community.

We are calling on the government to review its current stance, and to take a fresh approach, drawing on positive examples in Scotland and the rest of the world.

– Professor John Coyne CBE, Chair of British Canoeing
Parliament 2023 01

Conservative MP Pauline Latham OBE, who co-sponsored our event with Labour's Kim Leadbeater MP, said in her speech: 

"I have always advocated for parties to come together to agree on fair, shared open access on the basis of mutual respect.

"Having dealt first hand with access disagreements in my own constituency, I believe that there is a role for the government to play, to bring about fair, shared access for all."

Pauline Latham

Pauline Latham MP during her speech in support of our new charter.

Kim Leadbeater, MP for Batley and Spen, who joined us on the water, for the Big Paddle Cleanup, said:

“Paddlesport is a special way of combining physical activity and connecting to the natural environment. Two things I feel passionate about.

"As I found out when I joined Ben [Seal] and the team on the canal just outside my constituency for the Big Paddle Cleanup. We had a fantastic time. It was a really special thing to do.

"The opportunity to get outdoors and be active in our green and blue spaces are really important, but not, sadly, available to everyone in society.

"We're in the middle of a major health crisis... The reality is, whoever is in government, we cannot keep chucking money at the NHS...

Kim Leadbeater

Kim Leadbeater MP for Batley and Spen, at our event on 7th June 2023.

Free ‘natural health service’

"We have to take a much more preventative approach to the health and wellbeing of the nation," she said.

"Our outdoors is a free ‘natural health service’... Our rivers, canals, footpaths, bridleways and cycle ways are an incredible resource that should be seen as a prime means to keep us all healthy and happy.

"One of the priorities for British Canoeing and its sector colleagues is to see an ambitious, accountable cross department plan for access and outdoor recreation. 

"We need a holistic approach, integrating the work of every department and all activities carried out or overseen by the government, would bring together a wide range of interventions throughout the life cycle into one strategy."

John Coyne Parliament 2023

Chair of British Canoeing Professor John Coyne CBE with the new charter.

Professor John Coyne CBE, Chair of British Canoeing, said during his speech: 

“We are calling on the government to review its current stance, and to take a fresh approach, drawing on positive examples in Scotland and the rest of the world.

“We need to encourage Defra to move towards a policy of ‘fair, equal, shared space’.

“Fairness for everyone wanting to enjoy outdoor recreation, on and off the water.”

You can download our Access and Environment charter below:

During the event at Westminster, we showed one of our new 'Why Blue Space Matters' films. 

It features The One Show reporter Miranda Krestovnikoff, who loves to paddle on the River Avon, in Bath.

She said: "The value of blue spaces to me is immeasurable. Imagine if we're denied access to that valuable resource? 

"Imagine how poorer how lives would be if we had no connection with these wild, beautiful wet spaces?

"That's why blue space matters."