Welsh Government is consulting on a number of key proposals to align forestry, designated landscapes and access to outdoors legislation to the sustainable management of natural resources. 

It aims to achieve better and smarter regulation by proposing a package of reforms covering marine and fisheries; drainage and water infrastructure and waste and local environmental quality.

Rights of access

Welsh Government aims to create legislation to establish clarity over rights of access, as well as ensuring greater consistency. 

As part of this they propose to extend public access rights to rivers and other inland waters such as lakes.  There would not be a universal right to access water from land adjacent to the water; however, it is proposed that access and egress points will be identified by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) by a process of mediating between the different user interests to facilitate user access agreements. 

In order to protect the natural and built environments, these access rights would be dependent on the user behaving responsibly whilst undertaking recreation, with a failure to do so resulting in the rights being annulled. 

It is also proposed to that temporary diversions and exclusions could be applied across all accessible land and water where circumstances require them and after the safety and convenience of the public have been considered.

RYA concerns

While there might be some benefits to recreational boaters in general, the RYA is concerned that there may be a risk that clubs might find their exclusivity of use of a waterbody eroded or that their own private access to water may be changed to allow anyone to use it.  This could impact on those clubs who rely on this exclusivity as a reason for club membership, or as part of their lease or ownership of land.

It is not clear whether the access points to be identified by NRW could be across excepted land, such as the curtilage of a clubhouse.  The RYA would be concerned, for example, if a club’s dinghy park was designated as open access land and the restriction on activities that could take place there were lifted then this might cause significant problems for the club.

Other proposals of interest to RYA members within the consultation include the introduction of an improved aquaculture licensing regime to bring it into line with marine licensing and commercial fishing licensing regimes.  The new licensing regime would replace ‘several’ Orders granted under the 1967 Act. 

It is also proposed that the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 would be amended to provide the Welsh Ministers with express powers to produce regional marine plans within the Welsh marine plan regions.

The RYA is now considering the Welsh Government’s proposals in depth and preparing its response to this public consultation.

Feedback welcomed

Whilst we’ll be representing the interests of our clubs and members in our formal response to the consultation, we’re also strongly encouraging recreational boaters to respond directly by the deadline of 30 September.

The consultation can be found at https://consultations.gov.wales/consultations/taking-forward-wales-sustainable-management-natural-resources and responses can be via the online form, by email or by post.

We would welcome any feedback from clubs during the consultation period or for any further information please email environment@rya.org.uk