Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this time?

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Jim Pullen
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Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this time?

Post by Jim Pullen » Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:44 pm

I noticed an article in the Times linked from the bbc website about the Angling Trust about to take legal action against the BCU/CE and CW. Looking at their website it seems they may not just be saber rattling this time. Thoughts?
angling trust website wrote:Following a steady increase in complaints of canoe trespass incidents from angling clubs and fishery owners, Fish Legal has sent a legal ‘letter before action’ to the British Canoe Union (BCU), Canoe Wales (CW) and Canoe England (CE) demanding that they stop publishing information suggesting that there is a general right of navigation on non-tidal waterways in England and Wales, and/or that the law relating to navigation on rivers is unclear. There is no such general right of navigation in law and permission for access is required for people to use boats on rivers.

Fish Legal and the Angling Trust have written repeatedly to the BCU over the past few years to explain the law and to ask that incorrect information is removed from web sites and other publications, but these requests have been ignored. Legal action to force these organisations to stop publishing this information - which can encourage unlawful behaviour - now seems to be the only option. The action will be backed by subscription income from Fish Legal members along with donations made over the past year from more than 100 angling clubs to the Sustainable Access Campaign Cymru.

A response to the ‘letter before action’ is pending and the Angling Trust and Fish Legal hope that taking this formal step may encourage the BCU, CE and CW to resolve matters constructively, without the need to go to court.

Fish Legal will seek ‘declaratory relief’ through the courts unless BCU, CW and CE amend their publications and stop publishing inaccurate information about the law to their members and the public. The recent upsurge in unlawful canoeing in England and Wales has damaged the rights of several angling clubs and fishery owners. Many canoeists have the false impression that they can take their boats down rivers wherever and whenever they like. The Angling Trust and Fish Legal believe that the actions of BCU, CW and CE have contributed to this widespread trespass.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “We are taking action to stop the canoeing governing bodies publishing inaccurate information and to protect the rights of our member angling clubs and riparian owners. This may now include court proceedings. Our members have often tried to make agreements with canoeing clubs for greater access, with reasonable conditions to protect the water environment and avoid interference with fishing. However, these offers are repeatedly rejected, because the canoeing governing bodies insist that such agreements must allow unlimited access, or that permission is not needed.”

He added: “We hope that this legal action, if it proves necessary, will settle beyond any doubt the issue of rights to navigate on rivers. We need the canoeing governing bodies to recognise that the law is clear and that permission is required. If this occurs, then we will be happy to work closely with them and our members to develop access agreements which make it possible for more people to go canoeing more often, without breaking the law or unreasonably interfering with angling.”
There's also a dossier they've compiled here with a few mentions of this website and others.
Done any NE/NW rivers not on the site? PM me!

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by SimonMW » Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:51 pm

It is laughable. It would have to be established that they are correct about navigation law in a law court. We should be thanking them, because they could well end up looking very silly indeed given all the evidence for historical navigation rights.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Mark R » Thu Aug 14, 2014 12:53 pm

They've sent a 'letter before action'.

Ooh, I just soiled my pants in terror.
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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Mark R » Thu Aug 14, 2014 1:03 pm

Check out page 32 - until very recently, there was apparently a CE River Advisor on the Axe who believed it was his job to 'police' the river against paddlers, and was outraged when he was stopped from doing this. What an idiot.

I have never paddled the Axe, despite it being fairly close to me. I will endeavour to put this oversight right soon.

Otherwise, CE and their officials come out of the report quite well - the Angling Trust actually see them as putting up a solid case for sensible access, which is more than many paddlers would credit them with.
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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by tape34 » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:43 pm

Fish Legal are clutching at straws, they obviously don't have a legal case against the Public Right of Navigation which has been invoked and publicised or they would have used it by now.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by DaveBland » Thu Aug 14, 2014 3:54 pm

As it's been reported in the Times, hopefully BCU/CE will take advantage of a guarantee of a published reply and produce a public facing trashing of the Fish botherers.
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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by DaveWortley » Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:29 pm

From Canoe England Facebook Page:
The British Canoe Union is disappointed by letters received from Fish Legal (the legal arm of the Angling Trust) with regard to the right of navigation.

Throughout our many years corresponding with the Angling Trust, British Canoeing has tried to establish a working relationship to understand each other’s needs to ensure both sports are carried out sustainably and the aquatic environment is enjoyed and shared by everyone. In many parts of the country we have very strong links with angling clubs and anglers in general and wish to improve relationships with all sectors of the angling community.

We note that an article in The Times newspaper covering the story today. This contains a number of errors, which we feel need a response:

The article suggests Canal & River Trust waters are the only non-tidal waterways open to paddlers in England and Wales. This is fundamentally untrue. We have licence arrangements with other navigation authorities (for example the Environment Agency) where paddlers do pay a licence fee as a service is provided to the canoeist by these authorities. In addition to these managed waterways, and regardless of the interpretation of navigation law, there are many more rivers where navigation is specifically enshrined in legislation, but where other interests on the water refuse to recognise this.

There is the suggestion from the Angling Trust that paddlers could be responsible for transferring Non-Native Invasive Species. All water users (from anglers, to boat users to dog walkers) have the potential to transfer these species and therefore all users have a responsibility to take biosecurity measures seriously to prevent their spread. British Canoeing takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and has a very strong emphasis on all environmental matters. We work closely with the Defra-led ‘Stop The Spread’ campaign, as well as the Rivers Trusts and other environmental organisations to educate paddlers about the need to Check, Clean & Dry after using the waterways. This is one area where there would be great benefits from the paddling and angling communities working together.

The British Canoe Union would like the Angling Trust to clarify and identify to canoeing the precise word(s)/ parts of those publications that the Angling Trust takes issue with, for example the statements from our websites that it says have encouraged a “recent upsurge in unlawful canoeing”. Our solicitors have asked for this information but as yet have not received any reply. Furthermore the recent Angling Trust press release, describing legal proceedings as seemingly “the only option”, comes as a time when even the Trust’s own requested timescales for a response to its legal correspondence has not yet passed.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by CliveBishop » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:01 pm

On TV tonight and the usual stuff from angling trust. Claim they also spend more money!

It's going to get a whole lot more interesting now it's been on national TV

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by SimonMW » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:06 pm

When was it on TV?

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by CliveBishop » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:11 pm

ITV national news at ten tonight

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by icklepaddler » Thu Aug 14, 2014 11:17 pm

Nice that this issue has received media coverage.

I just wish the bcu statement had been a bit more robust and bring it on!

Similarly re the itv news article, surely there was an olympic athlete or hard done child that could have been called upon.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by twopigs » Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:10 am

Well done Mark
APPENDIX G – UK Rivers Guidebook, Canoe England and the BCU
UKRGB considered a greater threat to their "Our river" stance than the other two organisations!
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Big Henry » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:48 am

Part of me says "good, at last it can be settled," but another part says that judging by what I've heard of the BCU, they'll end up giving in.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Chalky723 » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:07 am

Big Henry wrote:Part of me says "good, at last it can be settled," but another part says that judging by what I've heard of the BCU, they'll end up giving in.
Agree, this is their chance to get in touch with all the other representatives of River Users and put a clear, united and coherent case forwards, one that will strike a nerve with a public wary of the ongoing erosion of rights....

Won't happen though & we'll all end up having to fly pirate flags & wear skull balaclavas down the river....

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by SimonMW » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:18 am

The BCU etc should be making more about the local economics case and business/employment opportunities, alongside other outdoor sports rather than having a tit for tat about river rights.

Much more I think could be achieved by showing how the reality is that the Angling Trust and Countryside Alliance etc stances on the matter strangle local tourist economy growth, to pick apart their arguments about how much angling is worth to the economy, and to point out that it simply isn't on to strangle the growth of other areas simply because they are full of their own self importance.

Cases such as Llangollen should be brought to the fore.

Talking about rights to navigate a river should not be forgotten. However general members of the public can get lost in the details of those arguments, which can only be solved in a court once and for all.

On the other hand most people understand economics, and showing that the AT's attitude is unnecessarily risking local tourism economies is something that will strike a nerve.

This all has to be done in collaboration with other outdoor activities organisations such as the BMA.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by brevan » Fri Aug 15, 2014 1:59 pm

tape34 wrote:Fish Legal are clutching at straws, they obviously don't have a legal case against the Public Right of Navigation which has been invoked and publicised or they would have used it by now.

Pete Ball
The Angling Trust and Fish Legal have been insistent for a long time that the law is clear and paddling without permission is illegal, but members of the Angling Trust see no actual action being taken against paddlers. It could be that those Angling interests have demanded action and AT / FL have had to respond, even if the legal position may not be as clear and strong as they have claimed.

At least if the Angling Trust act now and the decision goes against then they can say 'the courts decided, that's the law',
If they did not act then they would lose credibility, support and funding.

Its a situation of their own making, there is only so long you can bluff and bluster.

If a realistic, fair and genuine proposal was put forward for shared use of rivers the legal position would become much less of an issue (except of course for those on both sides who will not compromise under any circumstance)

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by MatimusX » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:43 pm

Regardless of what people think of the BCU, or any disappointment you've suffered from them in the past - now would be a REALLY good time to get behind them and help, rather than condemning them.

They'll be the only people representing us and fighting our corner in court and we will need them to have all the backing we can give them - whether that be advising them of unlawful activities undertaken by fishermen, notifying them of any specialised knowledge relating to law, environmental issues or anything else we have in our (rather diverse) skill set as a community, or even just by paying membership/donating and making sure they have enough money to compete with the land owners and affluent and well connected anglers in court. It sounds as though this could be the deciding case that either makes or breaks the freedom we have to participate in canoeing or kayaking, and as it stands the anglers already seem to have the media on their side (or at the very least, fooled).

So, let's show them what we're made of!
Let's go boating!

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by DaveBland » Sat Aug 16, 2014 4:15 am

MatimusX wrote:Regardless of what people think of the BCU, or any disappointment you've suffered from them in the past - now would be a REALLY good time to get behind them and help, rather than condemning them… So, let's show them what we're made of!
Totally agree and love the sentiment, but to be fair there's all the info and views on here anyone could possibly need plus Keith's great website too.

What is important is showing a unified front and no infighting. Of course, nothing has really changed as until the law is clarified with a challenge it's all just a PR exercise.

The BCU would best spend their resources retaining a PR expert rather than a lawyer, although their previous efforts at hiring creative/marketing specialists don't fill me with confidence. Do you think they have learned from their logo mistakes?
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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by BristolBob » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:25 am

This is an empty threat. The AT cannot bring proceedings of this nature.

The fundamental dispute is whether there is a public right of navigation on the rivers of England and Wales. If we're right, riparian owners commit a tort (a non-contractual civil wrong) by trying to stop us paddling. If they're right, we commit a tort when we paddle.

The courts grant injunctions to restrain an actual or threatened tort. The dispute may go to court if a paddler sues a riparian owner for restricting or threatening to restrict his access, or if an owner sues a boater for paddling or threatening to paddle. The court would then decide whose view of the law is correct. This may vary for different rivers depending on the historical evidence.

What you can't do is sue someone for expressing a general view of the law. That's all CE have done - posted their interpretation of the law on river access. That's not a tort or a threat to commit a tort. The AT have no cause of action.

I'm starting to wonder about the quality of their legal advice. Fish Legal have said some pretty weird things over the years and I used to think it was at their clients' request. This kind of threat makes me wonder if the AT is just getting bad advice.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Simon » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:02 am

The problem here is that there are two separate things to consider

One is believing that the law is on your side - which we canoeists do.

The other is the enormous cost of going to court to prove your case. The last time a river access case went to court, the Yorkshire Derwent about twenty years ago, the legal costs were North of half a million pounds in 1980s prices. That sort of cost could bankrupt the BCU if the had to defend it.

So big powerful (i.e. rich) bodies like the Anglers can make legal threats which may be on dodgy ground, knowing that the weaker body could not afford to defend themselves even if they had the stronger legal case. What that would do to the ability to paddle rivers is anybodies guess, but probably not good news.

So don't be relaxed about this. It is easy to state your legal views on the UKRGB website. It is another thing entirely to raise the money to hire a barrister to defend your beliefs in court. The Anglers know that and are attempting to bully us.

And sadly - legal bullying by rich people often works.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by shanclan » Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:02 am

So the goverment are going to stand by and watch Angling interests try and bankrupt the governing body of an internationally successful sport? And they are going to continue funding the bodies that support such an action? And they are then going to put all all outdoor activities at the mercy of a small and increasingly unpopular group?


Fish Legal seem to be inviting us to join them in a game of Russian roulette. I think we might be watching them shoot themselves in the face.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by paddler_linds » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:17 pm

Some really interesting posts here guys and some clearly knowledgeable about the law. At the risk of getting lambasted, I will admit to taking part in both activities and have listened to the tale of two sides over the years. What always surprises me is the lack of knowledge on both sides about the needs and ambitions of the others pursuit.

Where there are real hotspots for contentions over access rights, I have always felt there is more scope for negotiations. Listening to the stories of some of the Ghillies in Scotland over the years, I am not surprised there is friction. I personally think the behaviour is poor on both sides at time and always interpreted as the other sides fault, by both canoeists and fishers. I have no doubt there are genuine stories of fishers being blatantly horrible, as there are stories of kayakers being the same, but over all I cannot split a hair between the stories, or attitudes of either.

I am not saying it won't have to go to court to get sorted, and I am also not saying that casting hooks at kayakers is in anyway acceptable, but turn up with a fishing rod rather than a boat and I'm sure you'd not fine the people strange and you'd like your enemies well enough.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Keith Day » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:50 pm

paddler_linds wrote:.... I have always felt there is more scope for negotiations.
Everything so far is about agreeing the stating point for those negotiations. One party claims (the non exclusive) right to use the rivers for their pastime, is willing to share and wants good relations with other river users. The second party claims an exclusive right to use the rivers and control whether there is any use by anyone else.

If the first party is right, it leads to negotiations. If the second party is right, you can't negotiate, you can only beg!

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by paddler_linds » Sat Aug 16, 2014 8:30 pm

Keith Day wrote:
paddler_linds wrote:.... I have always felt there is more scope for negotiations.
If the first party is right, it leads to negotiations. If the second party is right, you can't negotiate, you can only beg!
I agree this is aggressive action from the fishermen and an example of an undesireable attitude if you ask me. Unfortunately I don't have any answers, I merely want to highlight that we both accuse the other of the same things.

Our local argument round here comes seems to come down to cash. The fishermen invest in bank and car park maintenance and other water users don't contribute. The fishers would feel better if they were offered a bit of cash, or perhaps some support to maintain the banks. This is not being tabled however, instead the kayakers are going for an aggressive compulsory purchase order.

Is there a win/win? I am certainly willing to admit to wanting to hog the best playspots, with the attitude that the fishers have the whole beat and I only have one or two waves. However I have fished beats where there is only one pool worth a go and if that happens to be where the best play spot is? Well, if I was a land owner, I'd only want kayakers on the water in June/July and the salmon off season, because otherwise it would be hurting my pocket and many beats already run at a loss.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by Keith Day » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:29 pm

paddler_linds wrote:The fishers would feel better if they were offered a bit of cash
I'd feel better if fishers offered me a bit of cash but I don't expect any anglers to give me any just for the right to fish (which I'm happy to accept they already have).

There have to be two separate stages. The first is an acceptance that we all have rights (and responsibilities) to share our rivers.

The second is to work out (negotiate?) how we can do this to maximum benefit to everyone. There are circumstances where various groups would value a bit of local/temporary exclusivity but no one has a right to demand it. There will be a willingness for local clubs to avoid each others events and competitions/ share (or pay for) car parking maybe, work together on river clean ups etc.
...instead the kayakers are going for an aggressive compulsory purchase order.
We'll have to disagree on this one. I don't want any aggression and I don't want any forced exclusion of anyone.
Is there a win/win? ...... I have fished beats where there is only one pool worth a go and if that happens to be where the best play spot is?
There aren't instant answers to all the issues but with goodwill and mutual respect we can start to find them.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by SimonMW » Sun Aug 17, 2014 8:26 am

What you can't do is sue someone for expressing a general view of the law.
They aren't. They are seeking declaratory relief.
declaratory relief n. a judge's determination (called a "declaratory judgment") of the parties' rights under a contract or a statute often requested (prayed) for information in a lawsuit over a contract. The theory is that an early resolution of legal rights will resolve some or all of the other issues in the matter. (See: declaratory judgment)
The fishermen invest in bank and car park maintenance and other water users don't contribute.
The bank "maintenance" is only generally done to make fishing easier.

There is a simple fact, as evidenced by direct comments on one of the most popular fishing forums. Those who are opposing sharing the rivers admit that they do not want us to be able to pay, because that would mean that their main argument for not sharing wouldn't exist any more. These people simply do not want anyone else using the river. At all.

Now, not all anglers are like this. There are many anglers who are pro access. The issue though is that influential organisations such as the Angling Trust are totally against access. They like VAA's because they know that they do not work, and they like the idea of a national license scheme because they know that it cannot work. Even if it did exist they would hate it because it would mean sharing the water.

Pointing out how the AT and organisations like them are hurting small local economies and hindering the ability for people of all backgrounds from being able to get out into the outdoors is the way to go.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by DaveBland » Sun Aug 17, 2014 3:27 pm

SimonMW wrote: Pointing out how the AT and organisations like them are hurting small local economies and hindering the ability for people of all backgrounds from being able to get out into the outdoors is the way to go.
I kinda get this approach but I think it's hard to prove with tangible figures.
I think the perception of 'rich selfish anglers' wanting to keep everyone of their birthright rivers is a more powerful and accurate message.
Unless there is a definitive challenge of the law, it will be down to public opinion as that will be what sways politicians.
By hammering out this 'rich selfish anglers' message in conjunction with the evidence to support open access, any claims the anglers make will only support the view of their selfishness.
dave

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by SimonMW » Sun Aug 17, 2014 4:06 pm

I kinda get this approach but I think it's hard to prove with tangible figures.
It isn't just about canoeing/kayaking, but about all outdoor sports that are restricted by the current draconian attitudes towards land. So it important that rights to inland water are seen alongside other adventure sports and the associated combined economic benefits of all of them. Do not forget that the likes of the Countryside Alliance wish to oppose all aspects of wider countryside access, not just rivers. Really it needs to be a concerted joined campaign under one banner from all adventure sport organisations and businesses.

If they all supported one another they would be a much bigger force to go up against the likes of the AT and CA.

There are surveys carried out by the likes of the RYA which look at the economic benefits of various sports. There are also studies such as this one.

It includes statements such as this from their survey of adventure tourism businesses;
… However, canoeing and kayaking were also regarded to be the most important activity relating to the business of more than one in five respondents (22% and 21% respectively) while mountain biking was considered to be the most important activity for 15% of respondents.
And,
The adventure tourism sector offers a significant contribution to the local economy of Northwest Wales both in terms of the financial injections generated from adventure tourism visitor spend as well the employment opportunities generated both directly and indirectly as a consequence of these activities. Furthermore the nature of the activities, in particular the way they promote healthy living and environmental sustainability, create an attractive image for the Northwest Wales area that comprises of Anglesey Gwynedd and Conwy, which in turn holds the potential of generating further economic and social benefits that are not captured within the remit of this study.
And, bear in mind this was 2004. Also bear in mind that of the businesses surveyed canoeing and kayaking was a large part of their income.
The outdoor activities sector adds over £60million to the Snowdonia/Eryri economy. Every pound spent on outdoor activities and accommodation, generates a further £0.76 for the local economy.
• The outdoor activities sector adds over £140million to the North West Wales economy. Every pound spent on outdoor activities and accommodation, generates a further £0.97 for the local economy.
The Lake District Park Authority also seems to see the economic benefits.
http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/__data/a ... -Annex.pdf

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by shanclan » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:42 pm

http://www.snowdonia-active.com/upload/ ... ourism.pdf

Report from earlier this year. Outdoor activities contribute nearly £ 0.5bn per year to the Welsh economy. One of the limiting factors for growth is landowners charging for access.

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Re: Angling Trust - More Saber rattling, or serious this tim

Post by DaveBland » Sun Aug 17, 2014 6:26 pm

OK, great! - there's more data on income generated than I thought there would be. Fantastic as supporting information - any 'campaign' needs a core message and supporting secondary data to further add to the argument, but can only lead with one.
Throughout history, the 'trying to take our rights away' message is always the most motivating - even over money!
dave

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