I have just emailed my own response to the article, which was apparently first published in the Public Notices section of the paper. Since it is quite long (it is aimed to include those who know nothing of the rights of navigation argument) I'm not sure it will be included, but here it is anyway:
me wrote:I would like to respond to the item published in the Public Notices section of your paper on 7th April from the “Riparian Owners, being members of the Eamont Owners Association, and Graham, King and Mellor, solicitors for the Eamont Owners' Association.”
If you own land adjoining a watercourse, you have certain rights and responsibilities. In legal terms you are a 'Riparian Owner'. These include such things as maintaining river beds and banks and clearing debris, allowing the flow of water to pass without obstruction, controlling invasive alien species and the right to fish from your watercourse (with relevant EA license). You can remove a certain amount of water from it before an abstraction license is required, you must not cause obstruction to the free passage of fish and you can’t pollute the water. There are other various rights and responsibilities, including some relating to flooding. However, what is not, and never has been covered by riparian rights, is the right to control navigation along natural rivers. In fact the owner cannot infringe upon the rights of other riparian owners or the public to make reasonable use of the water. The riparian right is usufructuary, meaning that the landowner does not own the water itself but instead enjoys a right to use the water and its surface. But not at the expense of other members of the public.
The rights of navigation on inland waters is enshrined in the Magna Carta - the foundation of English Law. In fact, from at least 1189 legal usability (the legal right) existed where there was physical usability, and that included small boats and coracles, not just large barges. Since 1830, in legal texts, it was ASSUMED that historic legal usability existed only where there had been prior historic use. Since most journeys along rivers were never recorded, they were not included in the “historic use” as described in 1830. It is from this WRONG assumption that the modern (wrong) “understanding” of laws of navigation along waterways comes from, and is promoted vociferously by those who want to keep “their” water to themselves.
The Law of England and Wales is that Public Rights can only be extinguished by Statute, Statutory Authority, or conditions changing so that the right can not be exercised (eg if the river had silted up completely). Since there are no Acts of Parliament removing rights of navigation along rivers, we still legally have the right to navigate along the Eamont, amongst all the other rivers in England and Wales.
I wonder if the “Riparian Owners, being members of the Eamont Owners Association”, are attempting to spread this misunderstanding and wish to scare members of the public from their legal right to navigate along the waters of the River Eamont. So I ask: Can the “Riparian Owners, (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera)”, or their solicitors, inform us through these pages, exactly which laws (chapter and verse, please) they would consider anyone who does navigate along “their” river without “their” permission would be breaking, when the statutes were passed in Parliament, and exactly what the consequences would be, rather than making vague legal threats?
Finally, I have taken notice that the Riparian Owners (etc) have “declare[d] that no right of navigation exists on the stretches of the River Eamont within their control”. As far as I’m concerned they can also declare that black is white and night is day, and that it is illegal to wear a top hat on the upper floor of a double decker bus on a Thursday in months with a “y” in, but I don’t believe any of those would have any more legal standing than their original declaration. I look forward to exercising my rights at some point in the future, when there is enough water about – maybe in November - without asking for permission that I legally do not need.
My original draft had accused them of "attempting to spread insidious untruths" but I thought this could possibly get me in trouble or result in it not being printed, so I toned it down (as I have no legal basis on which to suggest this, in case any legal types that may represent anyone involved is reading).