What Can I do to Help?
Lobbying your MP
One of the most successful ways of getting your point across to the Government is via your own MP. Your local MP as well as being involved with countrywide issues and decision-making is concerned with issues that affect their constituency members and this includes the access issue.
Lobbying your MP means that you contact your MP and express your concerns and discuss the issue putting your case for change across. One of the best ways is to actually go and meet your MP at one of their local "surgeries" (a time set aside by the MP to meet local constituents). Your MP is likely to ask what you would like them to do.
Sometimes it is just a case of ensuring your MP is updated on the issue/problem but it is more likely that they need to act on your behalf. It could be anything from writing a letter, raising a question in the House of Commons to putting forward a Private Members Bill.
In the case for Access we need them to be aware of all the issues including the access problems in your area.
We need MPs be aware of the work currently being undertaken by DEFRA and the "recommendations” they are making particularly in relation to Voluntary Access Arrangements.
How to Lobby
Please contact your MP and arrange an appointment to see them either at their local office or at one of their surgeries near to your home. This information can be found from your local council or local paper. The information could even be in your area’s phone book. It is best to actually go and see them. We can help you with leaflets and posters if you would like to leave them some information, which you could then follow up with a letter (sent to their local constituency office) summarising the points you discussed. The address for your MP can also be found on the UK Parliament web site.
Please go and see them at the appointed time and explain:
• What your personal paddling experiences have been
• What you feel the problems and difficulties are in your local area
• Why you feel canoeists should have equality of access to rivers
• What equality of access would mean to the 2,200,000 (2.2 million) people who go canoeing every year.
• What the economic benefits would be to your community (especially if you live in a rural area) if greater access was available because tourism etc would be boosted
• Canoeing and other water sports are very much about participation. Providing greater access to the rivers will enable a healthier and fitter nation.
• Canoeists and other river users are the "eyes and ears of the water environment” and can be relied upon to report pollution problems, assist injured wildlife and undertake river clean ups.
• Rivers are a superb natural classroom. Given greater access, schools can support the National Curriculum using the great outside for learning opportunities and the possibilities there for cross-curricular activities are almost endless.
We can all legitimately use footpaths and bridleways etc that are public rights of way. In Scotland and the rest of the world there is also a public access to rivers, but not in England and Wales where only 1,500 miles of some 40,000 miles of rivers are open to the public for navigation. Will your party take action to create public access to rivers in England and Wales? (hand them a leaflet available from us …. )
How to contact and who is my MP?
If you just want to e mail a letter go to http://www.writetothem.com/ enter your postcode, click on your MP... If you do not get a reply go back again and again!
If you personalise your letter and link it in to your area and to the "interest” of your MP the more likely it is to catch their attention and get past their personal administration team!
• Identify your MP by entering your post code on www.ukparliament.uk
• Click on your MPs name to get their full profile, which will show their email address and their Political Interests.
Whilst the theme of your letter will be about your situation draw their attention to the lack of clarity re access to our rivers and contrasting this with the situation in almost every other country in the world especially Scotland, where there is the successfully implemented Scottish Land reform Act. In addition you can personalise the content to your own experience and their interests... they might like sport..community work or have taken up issues in the house such as obesity etc
So you might like to mention about the health benefits the sport brings etc as well has how close to waterways we all live. Some assistance can be found here....link to the health bit on the new website..................
Nearly everyone lives within 2-5 miles of a river which, subject to environmental conditions, could be canoed and enjoyed by other watersports . Clarity and certainty of access to rivers would therefore offer a significant contribution to the health of the nation which will be of great benefit in the current financially constrained times.
Is your MP a Liberal Democrat?
Before the 2010 General Election the Lib-Dem manifesto stated
"We will also increase the general right of access to the countryside, along the lines of the model introduced by Liberal Democrats in Scotland.” If you are writing to a Liberal Democrat it will do no harm to remind them of this!
What are their views now especially as other recommendations have come out from a variety of reports including the Sport and Recreation Alliance – Red Card to Red Tape.. which supports the Lib Dem Manifesto pledge.
What else can they do to help?
Ask your MP to write to the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson to highlight the access recommendation within Red Card to Red Tape as important to their constituents and a report that he helped launch so what is he going to do to implement the recommendations?
MPs tend to forward your letter to the offices of the Ministers concerned (Hugh Robertson - Sports Minister, Caroline Spelman (DEFRA Secretary of State) and Richard Benyon - Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries) and they will receive a standard Civil Servant speak letter in reply. Do not accept this ... so you should also stress that you would like to know their (your MPs) personal stance on the issue and whether you, as their constituent, can count on their support in ensuring that the recommendation in Red Card to Red Tape is implemented and whether they will speak up for it in the House or even ask "Questions” or lay down EDMs (Early Day Motions)
It is important to describe the access problem on a river within the MP's constituency they are more concerned about the feeling of their constituents as they mean votes etc .
After the 2010 election there were nearly 200 new MPs and they could do with a note on the situation. They have all been sent the Waterways & Environment Charter from us but a letter from a constituent is more important and likely to get action. Your letter will contribute to growing pressure on Parliament to end the current stalemate
• One of the biggest issues that face British Canoeists is the lack of access to the rivers of England and Wales. Canoeing, for the tenth year running, has been recognised as the fastest growing watersport (RYA Survey 2011). The sport is socially inclusive, ecologically sound and a fun, healthy activity for people of all ages and abilities. Canoeing also plays an important role in local economy.
• It may be all change in terms of what is going on with the waterways with the changes in British Waterways as it becomes a charity (Canal & River Trust) and the potential for the Environment Agency Navigations to join the charity on 2014 and the Comprehensive Spending Review but for us despite what is going on around us, and in some ways because of what is going on around us, the access question is still as prominent as ever.
• In these times of austerity there is a need to concentrate minds and this makes for a much better discussion about return on investment and use of public money (taxpayers!!) for public betterment. Ie where public money is used to provide a facility, or make a facility better than it should be used by the public.... rights and responsibilities.
• It is common knowledge, as a result of the Brighton University work around access to water, that access agreements cost on average £6k per km. The implementation of CRoW (Countryside Right of Way Act) cost £69m and hasn’t quite achieved what was agreed in the 1996 review. Ie has not given the access as was originally thought nor encouraged huge numbers of additional people to visit the countryside. Part of this expense was in the huge mapping exercise which took place which many think was unnecessary!
• What about Scotland? Well the Scottish Land Reform Act cost less than £1m to implement and has done it all!! This fact provides a very powerful argument at this time as a way to move forward.
Canoe England believes that public money which is put to the betterment of the waterways should therefore mean that waterways should be open to the public.
What are we campaigning for?
New legislation such as the successfully implemented Scottish Land Reform Act 2003, that codifies responsible access to land and water. It protects the environment and activities of canoeists, anglers, other users and landowners who are all required to adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Canoeing is not seeking a conflict with anglers and other river users. It wants to successfully co-exist to the wider benefit of the whole community, as canoeists do in Scotland, all over Europe and the rest of the world.
Why more rivers access?
Increase participation in sport and recreation
A legal right of access to rivers would provide phenomenal recreational opportunities for a whole group of people including canoeists, swimmers, and boaters with, knock-on benefits for public health. The recreational aspects of canoeing could coincide effectively with government’s "everyday sport”
It is not just recreational paddlers that would benefit. British Canoeing has an outstanding record in the Olympic Games. A legal right of access will directly help to improve the UK’s Olympic standing.
Contribution to the economy
In addition to increased opportunities for recreation and elite sport, increased access to rivers would mean more money for rural communities.
Support for the campaign?
As your MP ask them to support the campaign. There are many ways in which you can do this. Perhaps you would ask Parliamentary Questions on our behalf? Sign EDMs or initiate EDMs and ask questions of DEFRA.
One question that could be asked is;-
If the Government is a firm believer in championing outdoor activities why then is it taking so long to move on the access issue? Could you please explain why your Government has chosen to approach Costal Access with legislation (Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 - to rivers through voluntary arranhttp://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/mca/) but continues to look at access arrangements? Is not land and water intrinsically linked?
To find more information visit www.riversaccess.org
Please try and see your MP and let us know how you got on. You can report back to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter to:
Canoe England at
British Canoe Union Offices
18 Market Place,
Nottingham NG13 8AP
Tel: 0845 370 9500
Fax: 0845 370 9501
Don’t forget to follow up your visit with a letter to your MP, thanking them for seeing you, in which you should repeat in writing your main points. Write to them at their local constituency office as they get so much post at the House of Commons it would be easy for it to be over looked.
Thank you for your support