Water & Marine: Inland waterways

These regulations cover the management of inland waterways, the right balance of interests among waterway users, protection of employees, canal classification, Environment Agency boat registration schemes and British Waterways employee pension rights, and applications for hire boat licences.

We want to hear your views on what more we can do to deliver a simpler, less bureaucratic and more effective system whilst maintaining safe access for all. For example could the enforcement of the Environment Agency (inland Waterways) Order be improved by providing for a statutory Code of Practice for hire boats.

You can find all regulations that relate to inland waterways below to the left. Please note the transfer of British Waterway’s statutory obligations (including those covered by some of these regulations) to the Canal & River Trust in June will be subject to parliamentary consideration and approval in the next few months of the draft Transfer Order under the Public Bodies Act 2011.

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The British Waterways Board (Kennet and Avon canal) (Reclassification) Order 2011

Reclassification of the main navigable channel of the Kennet and Avon Canal from remainder to cruising canal.

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Domestic regulation

The Environment Agency (Inland Waterways Order) 2010

Harmonisation of the EA boat registration and licensing schemes to ensure consistent safety and enforcement standards.

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Domestic regulation

Regulatory Reform (British Waterways Board ) Order 2003

Enables British Waterways to form or work with a company in England and Wales to carry out its activities without affecting BW’s borrowing powers

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Domestic regulation

Wye Navigation Order 2002

Repeals or partially repeals a number of antiquated local Acts. Enables the EA to effectively manage and balance the public right of navigation with fisheries interests.

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Domestic regulation

Deregulation (Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907) Order 1997

Disapplies the requirement to obtain an licence from the local authority for hire boats on British Waterways canals

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Domestic regulation

The British Waterways Board (Sheffield and Tinsley canal) (Reclassification) Order 1996

Reclassification of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal from remainder to cruising canal

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Domestic regulation

Southern Water Authority (Transfer of Lower Medway Navigation Functions) Order 1979

Transfered Lower Medway navigation functions from the Southern Water Authority to National Rivers Authority which became part of the Environment Agency

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Domestic regulation

British Waterways Board (Alteration of Pension Schemes) (No 2) Order 1971

Covers the terms and arrangements agreed for pension schemes transferred from the British Transport Commission to British Waterways.

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Domestic regulation

British Waterways Board (Alteration of Pension Schemes) Order 1971

Covers the terms and arrangements agreed for BW Pension schemes for BW employees.

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Domestic regulation

British Transport (Transfer from British Waterways Board Pension Schemes) Order 1968

Lays down conditions for the transfer value payment for persons leaving the BW Pension Scheme

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Domestic regulation

Tell us what you think should happen to these regulations and why, being specific where possible:

100 comments on “Water & Marine: Inland waterways

  1. David Crosson on said:

    Navigation rights for unpowered craft should be as clearly upheld on all inland waterways in England and Wales as they are in Scotland (and the rest of the world).Comment Tags: access, navigation

  2. Wilderness Canoe on said:

    I too would like to see the rights of access and navigation opened up as they are in Scotland, and pretty much every other country in the world.

    The current situation of facing verbal abuse and threats of legal action and physical violence must end.

    The Governments current unworkable policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as “the way forward” is untenable. Not least because access agreements haven’t worked for the past six decades, but also because the Governments own departments admit that organising them costs huge amounts of money and that landowners quite often cannot be found, even via the Land Registry.

    The Governments current policy harms rural economies due to restricting recreational based tourism, and limits the experience of the countryside that is possible for less abled members of society.

    The appalling situation with regards to recreational river access in England and Wales is a national scandal.Comment Tags: access

  3. Matt Thompson on said:

    Currently a fraction of the waterways in England and Wales are openly available for the likes of canoeists/kayakers, wild swimmers and the general public to access for recreational purposes. The small percentage that is available covers only a fraction of the recreational usage required from the public. Scotland has a well respected policy on access and this same policy and outlook should be adopted in the rest of the UK likewise.Comment Tags: access

  4. Bob Andrews on said:

    Access to Inland Waters should be based on the current position as in Scotland. Voluntary access has never worked and never will. Ask your staff for the percentage of vol. agreements compared to lengths of rivers.Comment Tags: access

  5. Fran Faulkner on said:

    I would like to see the right of access to all inland water in England and Wales similar to the Scottish system.

    It would appear, from the work of Rev Caffyn, that anciently this right was enshrined in law, but has more or less been forgotten.

    Too often canoeists, kayakers and wild swimmers face abuse and intimidation by landowners that don’t understand that right of navigation already exists. The land is theirs, but not the air that blows over it or the water that flows past it.Comment Tags: navigation, river access

    • steve carrington on said:

      It never was in Law. So how could it be forgotten.” So sorry my Lord i seen to have lost the law !!!” Get RealComment Tags: access

  6. Jon Davy on said:

    The access arrangements for rivers that has been adopted in Scotland should be extended across the UK. This would remedy the current situation where angling clubs and land owners believe that they own the access rights, despite the fact that ancient navigation rights are in force and have not been repealed.Comment Tags: access

  7. Rob M on said:

    I would like to see access to inland waterways made easier and follow the example set by the Scottish Outdoor Access code.
    Access agreements don’t work no matter what people may tell you.

    I have no objection to landowners charging for passage across their land to waterways in the same way other users pay for the right to sit on the bank and enjoy their hobby. However, I object to that same landowner telling me I have no right to pass down the river adjacent to their land even though I have no intention of setting foot on their property. That’s like saying you have no right to walk down the pavement at the front of my house because I own it!Comment Tags: navigation, river access

    • steve carrington on said:

      Access agreements dont work because you dont want them to. You are afraid you will have to toe the line and have a boating season like the anglers.
      One angler wont ruin your sport but one boat will ruin mine.
      Voluntary access agreements will protect your sport as well as mine
      There are on rights of navigation on the River Usk if you and Caffyn believe so then produce them

  8. Andy Perrett on said:

    The one thing that is worse than red tape is ambiguos red tape. The situation regarding access to waterways within England (and I believe the UK apart from Scotland) is that most rivers had a right of access historically but over the years this has become eroded and there is now a presumption that Riparian landowners have the right to exclude access to rivers. Most countries in the world give their people a right of access or at the very least do not prevent access to waterways.

    The government regularly says that it wants to promote health, tourism and general enjoyment of the environment for all on our waterways and this would be greatly helped by giving the public a right of access to waterways.

    I would like to see:

    1) Voluntary Access Agreements should be scraped as they are ineffective at achieving the stated aims and over the years have produced very little increase in access. They are costly and landowners often can not be found or traced.

    2) The presumption that Riparian landowners have the right to exclude access should be clarified to the point of stating that they do not have this right.

    3) The historical right of access / navigation should be restated or confirmed for non powered craft for all waterways that have never had this right removed.

    4) where ever public money is spent improving or maintaining a waterway the automatic right of access should be granted.

    5) The right of access for powered craft should also be given on any water way that can support such a vessel.

    6) It should be written into law that the enjoyment and benefit of a waterway is for all and not just a few.

    7) where public money is spent consulting about waterways no special interest groups should have priority. Consultation should be based upon a general need of the public to enjoy the waterways.

    8) No public body (such as the EA, the new trust, water boards etc) should be dominated by a special interest group and no decision should be taken that favours any individual group to the exclusion of others.

    Thank-you for the opportunity to make my views known.Comment Tags: access

    • steve carrington on said:

      I would like to see Canoe Wales and the BCU stop encouraging their members to tresspass. They should try talking to the anglers and not use the open access,historical rights arguement.

  9. David Round on said:

    The current access arrangements for rivers are based on voluntary agreements and ancient navigation rights. This has produced a system that is complex, costly and inconsistent. A simple right of navigation on all rivers, matching the Scottish legislation, would solve this issue at a stroke and give voluntary organisations much more scope when introducing children to kayaking.Comment Tags: access, kayaking, navigation

    • Dave Sanders on said:

      Unfortunately VAA’s will continue to be required as there is always a minority that will demand total access to the detriment of all other users. As an angler I have no problem with others using the water when it is not suitable for angling but is probably more suitable for the canoeists. Why aren’t canoe groups prepared to enter agreements?Comment Tags: Angler

  10. Matthew Greene on said:

    What we need is a clear unambiguous declaration of open river access in England/Wales,as it is in Scotland .Comment Tags: Open River Access same as Scotland

  11. Keith Day on said:

    Defra’s policy is to extend access to inland waterways through Voluntary Access Agreements. These agreements have proved to be totally ineffective over many years because they start from the assumption that Riparian landowners have the right to exclude the public from rivers and do not recognise the rights that the public have always had to use our rivers. The Red Card to red Tape Report produced for the Department for Culture Media and Sport have already recommended that “DEFRA should introduce a statutory right of access in England and Wales for unpowered craft to inland water for recreational purposes.
    This system of rights and responsibilities should be based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.” This works in Scotland. It would work in England too.Comment Tags: access

    • steve carrington on said:

      Defra have to Adjudicate between anglers and boaters fairly. VAAs are the only way to do this. Remember you are the ones who do not want regulation we want it to protect our assets and our sport.
      VAAs will not work if you are not prepared to abide by them. 365 day open access is not on the agenda because there are other people who want to use the rivers too !!!!!Comment Tags: access

  12. John Saunders on said:

    1. I would like to ensure that existing legal rights of navigation on English and Welsh rivers are not undermined, curtailed, or extinguished by any new legislation that favours any single vested interest group. 2. I would like to have rights of responsible access to our rivers enshrined in legislation to bring England and Wales to a position of international parity with other nations who have demonstrated equal respect for the rights of all of their citizens. 3. I would like the legislation that requires the Environment Agency to compensate water utility companies should abstraction licences be withdrawn to be repealed.Comment Tags: abstraction, access, agency, canoeing, environment, inland, kayaking, navigation, waterways

    • steve carrington on said:

      It is never going to happen. Why ??? The Canoe bodies do not want to talk and set up VAAs like grown ups they just want to take what isnt really theirs under the misapprehension that ancient navigation rights(that dont and have never existed) as their arguement.
      This is the 21st century not the 12th. Laws have evolved and are set up to protect all parties!!! This is why we need VAAs

  13. Rhodri Anderson on said:

    .Access to inland waterways in England and Wales need to be brought inline with the rest of the world. There should be a public right of navigation along them both for swimmers and unpowered craft. It is absurd that there is so little clarity in the law on this matter. The rivers are our greatest natural recourse. Outdoor enthusiasts from Europe and the rest of the world avoid visiting the UK because our outdated approach to access.Comment Tags: access, rivers.

  14. John-Paul Shaw on said:

    In order to encourage the greater recreational use of British inland waterways (and so increase the benefits to the UK economy and the health and well being of participants) it is essential that the historic access rights enacted by parliament are made clear to all agencies involved. This would include the police forces of the UK, who do little if anything to act on the threats, assaults and criminal damage done to those that try to exercise their right.

    The 96% of these waterways that are at present disputed by riparian rights owners and others are a shameful indictment of the way money and influence can usurp the rights of others, merely for financial interest.Comment Tags: river access

    • steve carrington on said:

      rubbishComment Tags: access

    • steve carrington on said:

      Far better recreational fitness is gained by walking or jogging than sitting in a little boat and letting the current take you downstream.
      I think this is what the government are trying to get across.Comment Tags: access

  15. Simon Wyndham on said:

    I too would like to see the rights of access and navigation opened up as they are in Scotland, and pretty much every other country in the world.

    The current situation of facing verbal abuse and threats of legal action and physical violence, having cars vandalised etc simply for paddling a canoe down a river must end.

    The Governments current unworkable policy of supporting voluntary access agreements as “the way forward” is untenable. Not least because access agreements haven’t worked for the past six decades, but also because the Governments own departments admit that organising them costs huge amounts of money and that landowners quite often cannot be found, even via the Land Registry.

    The Governments current policy harms rural economies due to restricting recreational based tourism, and limits the experience of the countryside that is possible for less abled members of society.

    The appalling situation with regards to recreational river access in England and Wales is a national scandal.Comment Tags: river access

    • steve carrington on said:

      rubbish. You vandals ruin my sport just because you think you can go anywhere at any time.
      Have consideration for others and perhaps it will be returnedComment Tags: access

    • Dave Sanders on said:

      It should be remembered that recreational angling put tourism money into communities than canoing every will. The only people who feel financially penalised are the commercial canoe ventures.Comment Tags: Angler

    • Simon Wyndham on said:

      Mr Sanders, your argument seems to be that because you think that anglers put more into the economy than canoeing ever will, that this should mean that those communities should therefore be denied the additional money brought in from canoeing. Can you not see the silliness of such an argument?!

      The fact is in fact that canoeing and kayaking do bring in substantial tourism money for local communities. Perhaps more so than angling because most anglers are local to the area and do not travel that far. I recently visited a B&B on the Dee, and the owner there was furious at anglers because of the antagonism they cause against canoe and kayaking. He B&B used to be full of canoe tourists, but they all stopped going there because of the problems anglers were causing.

      Let’s just establish the real reasons for your objections. You don’t want to share the river. That is why VAA’s never work, because you guys want to start off in the position of power and the ability to say “No!” to anything that suits you.

      I saw in other replies that Mr Carrington made that he stated that VAA’s do not work because of the canoeists. What utter tripe (pardon the pun)! VAA’s have been tried for over 50 years and have failed because so called agreements that only allow access for one day a year were the so called “fair” agreements that anglers thought were reasonable!

      You come clean and say that canoeing should be allowed when angling isn’t suitable at the time. You show your biased position with that statement, because a fair thing to say would be to say outright that the VAA would be worked out based on the sharing of the best times for each activity. But that will never happen. It doesn’t even happen on the Usk. In fact the Usk agreement is a joke because it doesn’t even have the consent of one of the main landowners along that river! How do I know this? Because he gave direct evidence and a statement to the Welsh Assembly Committee, which can be viewed on the BBC website in video form.

      An agreement is an agreement between two parties. How on earth does the BCU and Canoe England represent all paddlers, when most are not even members? Why should the BCU be held accountable for wild swimmers, model boat enthusiasts, sailing boats etc? VAA’s are doubly unworkable because the landowners to more than 30% of riverside land are not even known to the Land Registry!

      Mr Carrington and Mr Sanders, you have such a lack of knowledge of the real issues here that you really should do some more research. This is NOT a canoeist vs Anglers issue. This is an Anglers vs the rest of the English and Welsh public issue, since there are many more water based activities than simply canoeing!

      Lastly, show me where it says that Riparians and angling associations have the right to control navigation? You guys keep saying that you have this right, but I have yet to find it in any Riparian rights statements or in any other legal form. That’s because it simply does not exist. I am sorry that you feel threatened that Rev Caffyn has produced solid research that shows an ancient right of navigation exists, and that not one single person from any organisation has been able to refute any of his findings. There has been bluster of course, but I am afraid that bluster is not the same as direct evidence. You say that you have it and that the law is clear. Well in that case put up or shut up. Show me and the rest of the world the evidence.

  16. Wayne Jones on said:

    i would like to see a right of access to all inland water in England and Wales similar to the Scottish system. Paddlers and wild swimmers face abuse and intimidation by landowners than do not understand that a right of navigation already exists.Comment Tags: access, paddling, wild swimming

    • steve carrington on said:

      Show us the rights of navigation. None were found when a search was carried out for our club to buy the fishing rights.Comment Tags: access

    • Simon Wyndham on said:

      Likewise Mr Carrington there is no law or riparian right that says that you have the rights to restrict navigation either!

      That’s because the rivers are held in public trust. They are a national asset. That is why Riparian owners were often taken to court for impeding navigation in times gone by.

      A common law public right takes precedence over Riparian rights. I am not sure why you seem to think that the ownership of fishing rights equals the right to control the river itself! Your fishing rights are just that, fishing rights. The right to fish. Not the right to control or impede navigation, nor lay claim to ownership of the river. It simply gives you the right to hunt for fish.

  17. Doug Dew on said:

    I would like to see the arrangements for access to rivers adopted in Scotland extended to England and Wales to remove the current confused situation where Anglers and Land Owners think they own access rights, despite ancient navigation rights extended to allComment Tags: access, rivers., Scotland

    • steve carrington on said:

      I currently participate financially to enable me to carry out my sport. I will not have my sport hijacked by boaters who do not contribute but want to use my assets without my permission.
      Ancient navigation rights do not exist, but ancient fishing rights do. It is now in law that i have to have an EA licence and permission from the landowner.
      You want it unregulated and for nothing ????? How does that work then ?????Comment Tags: access

    • Simon Wyndham on said:

      Mr Carrington, you pay for angling because:
      1) you are using private facilities which have to be mainatained. Canoeists are on water, which is a public entity and cannot be owned, and do not use the facilities that you pay for, nor do they need to.

      2) You pay for a rod license because you affect the environment by killing fish! You are effectively paying a hunting license. To say that canoeists should have to pay is like saying that members of the public should have to pay to go hiking in the countryside because grouse hunters have to pay for a license!

      In any event canoeists tax money goes to the EA, which subsidises your sport through the work that they do. Part of your money both to the fisheries and the EA goes towards restocking. Canoeists, kayakers, wild swimmers etc do not injure of affect fish stocks in any, way, shape or form. So why on earth should we have to pay for something that only you are benefiting from?

      You don’t seem to be able to face the fact that your hobby is effectively hunting, and you do and should have to pay for the effect you have. On the other hand canoeing, kayaking, wild swimming etc are environmentally benign, and are as spontaneous as going for a walk. You don’t make hikers and walkers pay, other than for parking facilities etc. So why on earth do you think that canoeists, kayakers and wild swimmers etc should be made to?

  18. paul davies on said:

    I’d like the government to ensure brutish waterways follow due process .

    I have become aware of a new campaign by Oxford City Council that unfairly targets liveaboard boat owners on the Oxford Canal – the link is below.

    I urge you not to sanction the unfair targetting of liveaboard boater owners and request you work for the welfare and good of all. Enforcement will condem boaters to homelessness and will deny many access to employment and the safety net of social security and housing benefit where no moorings exist – and where eviction forces a choice between home or work. The problem lies not with boaters but a licencing regime unlawfully enforced.

    It’s impossible for boaters on the Oxford canal to act unlawfully when their licences are issued under the incorrect legislation. Therefore, there are NO boaters lawfully present on ANY canal where licences are issued unlawfully, and NO boater is able to comply with laws that do not refer to them. Any attempt by bw to evict boaters may therefore be considered a breach of article 8.

    Moore v brutish waterways 2012 proved that a licence and compliance with licencing regulation is required under the 1976 byelaws, while bw have incorrectly issued licences under section 43 of the 1962 transport act. The logic used by the judge to reach his conclusion is, of course, unclear but it does infer that bw may have been issuing licences using section 43 of the transport act in conjunction with the 1971 bw Act which only refers to riverways and not canals – and the judge correctly stated this was also ‘incorrect’.

    A boat licence is certainly required, but one issued incorrectly is a fee unlawfully levied and enforced – and to the tune of £m’s since 1971 – the whole thing’s a sham and a fraud.

    Further more, no pattern of navigatiion is required in any of the relevant legislation. A more logical suggestion would be to emphasise that a pattern of navigation (a continuous journey) is NOT required – and to avoid the term ‘journey’ where only ‘navigation’ is required in law. Bw insist on relying upon the term ‘continuous’ (as in moorer or cruiser) and in clear disregard to the ruling in bw v Davies 2011 and bw’s shameful thought and practice must be revealed/amended. No journey and no mooring can ever be continous…

    Finally, this matter is civil and not criminal. There is no reason to involve the police or community support officers.

    Comment Tags: http://www.narrowboatworld.com/index.php/news-flash/4165-major-crackdown-on-continuous-moorers

  19. sam browning on said:

    I would like the government to clarify the position on access and ownership of rivers.
    The policy of Voluntary access agreements to rivers does not work. It has resulted in little or no increase in the waters available to the public.
    Recent research suggests that there is a legal right of navigation on all navigable rivers, yet riparians claim that they can control access. I accept that riparians could control access onto the water from their land, but not if I access the water from elsewhere.
    Why did access to rivers not form part of the CROW act?
    Why are local access forums specifically not allowed to advise on access over or on water rather than just up to the waters edge? The government say they want better access to rivers and waterways, but why do they not allow local forums to explore this?
    Also, I’m still waiting to see some results to Caroline Spelmans comments:
    “… And we’re investing £110m to clean up England’s rivers, tackling problems that have been sitting in the too-hard basket for too long. We’ll be working with local groups to turn our waterways into healthy wildlife habitats, sort out problems regarding ownership, access, and upkeep, and address sources of pollution.
    The government can be most effective when it sets the right regulatory framework and policy direction. Our Natural Environment White Paper will show how we will improve our environment for future generations, changing how we value our green spaces and getting more people involved so that we can all enjoy the benefits nature brings. “ (http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/05…t-one-year-on/ ) The meaning I read from this is that even DEFRA are finally admitting that the policy of voluntary access agreements does not work, costs too much in resources and time, and has had little or no success in the past – I have to agree!
    Despite asking on numerous occasions, I have yet to see any good reason why access to the English countryside cannot be organised along the Scottish system.

    • steve carrington on said:

      VAAs do work.You just dont want them to thats why the canoe bodies wont talk to the anglers.
      My river, Your river, Our river. What you would like and mean is river for canoeists only to hell with the anglers.Comment Tags: access

  20. Jonathan Wood on said:

    Despite your case study, which says that VAAs for river access is a success, a large number of recreational canoeists and other potential river users would dispute that. Permits & booking ahead take no account of the fact that we are dealing with dynamic, ever changing environment. Many paddlers would respect sensible conditions of river level to make a choice of where to paddle. There is also the growing belief that riparian ownership does not imply control of navigation, or excluding some river users in preference to others. This cannot be bought.Comment Tags: navigation, river access

    • steve carrington on said:

      I have seen canoeists scraping the bottoms of their boats for long stretches of the river Usk. they look really comical.But they are doing it because they say they can and there is no law or regulation in place to stop themComment Tags: acces

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