The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has today publicly expressed its strong concerns over proposals in the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee Review of Zones in the Exe Estuary.

Speaking ahead of the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHRC) meeting which will take place on 23rd October 2017, the RYA has stated that the voluntary nature of the proposals being presented heavily depends on the goodwill of users, and as there is almost outright rejection of the proposals, they are flawed.

The RYA has been closely following the proposals since the beginning of the consultation period and has already rejected them on behalf of over 3,000 of its affiliated club members on the Exe in two formal responses to both the Exe Estuary Management Partnership and the SEDHRC.

Over 85% of respondents to the most recent SEDHRC consultation rejected the proposals, either within the online questionnaire or via direct correspondence.  Despite this, the recommendation to the Executive Committee continues to be that the proposals be implemented, without estuary user support.  

Safety considerations

Emma Barton, RYA Planning and Environmental Manager explains: "The findings of the public consultation clearly supported our voiced concerns over a lack of consideration of the safety requirements for recreational boaters when designing the exclusion zones, including the need to shelter from strong tides and weather, tidal windows for transit through areas, exit points and training needs for novice participants.

"We stand by our strong concerns regarding lack of engagement on the proposed new codes of conduct, safety implications and lack of understanding of participants' needs with regards to these proposals.

"The voluntary nature of these proposals heavily depends on the goodwill of users. Without the will and consensus of the people affected, there is no prospect of success.  The proposals have no legal force and are not therefore enforceable, as is confirmed by the legal advice on the report itself.  

"The recreational boating community on the Exe are committed to protecting the wildlife on the Exe, however some of the Wildlife Refuge Areas proposed remain important for recreational boating and those involved with the process to date now feel extremely disillusioned. We believe the Committee should revisit the proposals in a collaborative way by engaging with those affected and gain consensus before proceeding with a more effective approach," Emma adds. 

Protecting boaters' rights  

The RYA has a well-developed relationship with Government and its agencies. Through this, the membership-driven association continues to ensure that legislators, regulators and other authorities understand, and take account of, recreational boating activity. 

As the representative voice of boating, the RYA follows clear principles. The RYA seeks to resist proposed national legislation that may adversely affect any aspect of recreational boating and navigational safety, or that we believe to be disproportionate, ineffective or unenforceable.

In this instance, the RYA considers the recommendations outlined in the SEDHRC Review of Zones in the Exe Estuary to be disproportionate, ineffective and unenforceable, as well as posing a risk to navigational safety.   

Emma concludes: "We note that the Committee is also recommended to approach Exeter City Council, as the Harbour Authority, to undertake a review of the long-standing byelaw relating to the use of powerboats at speed in a designated zone.  The Harbour Authority is not able to introduce byelaw changes for purely conservation purposes where the effect is to hinder the ease, convenience and safety of navigation within the harbour, as the proposed changes will undoubtedly do. We will therefore continue to support our members and affiliated clubs with regards to these proposals."

For further information or specific advice, please email the RYA Environmental Team at or call the team on +44 (0)23 8060 4222.