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Row over fishing at Costessey

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:16 01 July 2010

Canoeist Tony Carter near the River Wensum at Costessey Mill. He is in dispute with anglers.

Canoeist Tony Carter near the River Wensum at Costessey Mill. He is in dispute with anglers.

Sarah Brealey

Anglers and canoeists are in a fierce dispute about access rights on the river at Costessey.

Anglers and canoeists are in a fierce dispute about access rights on the river at Costessey.

Canoeists say they have a right to canoe along the river at Ketteringham's Fisheries, just downstream of Costessey Mill. But their actions have angered anglers who have carried out work on the river to create fish spawning grounds.

While navigation rights on tidal waters are clear, the picture on non-tidal waters is murky. The anglers and the Environment Agency say the decision is down to the permission of the landowner of the river bank, while the British Canoe Union believes there is a public right of navigation.

Tens of thousands of pounds has been spent along the Wensum to restore it to its natural condition. Some of the work includes creating gravel riffles or mounds which speed up the flow of water and create fish spawning grounds.

Much of the work along the Wensum has been carried out by the Environment Agency, while Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association says it has carried out the work at Ketteringham with a £30,000 local heritage lottery grant.

Chris Oakley, chairman of Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association, said: "There is no legal right for canoeists to use that part of the river without Mr Ketteringham's approval. It is a sensitive environment and a site of special scientific interest."

He said they wanted to discuss the issue with the British Canoe Union nationally, which had not responded, and that there was "no point in having discussions with local groups, because other canoeists might do something different".

He said that two weeks ago, during filming of barbel spawning for the Springwatch programme, a group of canoeists had come down the river and the fish had disappeared. "That could easily have destroyed the barbel spawning for this year.

"The water can be very shallow over the riffles, so if a canoe comes over them that will damage the eggs or put the barbel off spawning there."

Canoeists in turn have accused some anglers of aggressive behaviour when they have tried to paddle past.

Tony Carter, local river adviser for the British Canoe Union, said: "Where a right of public navigation exists, that overcomes the landowners' rights. People have been paddling down there for decades.

"Our next step is to talk to the landowner and explain to them that this public navigation right exists and to set up a way to allow people to carry on using the river as it has been used."

He said that barbel was not native to the river and he said the Environment Agency should not have introduced them. He said: "I have asked the Environment Agency to try to help us sort this out, and they seem to have washed their hands of it."

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "The issue of access is down to the landowner, though we have offered to mediate between the anglers and the canoeists."

Ü Are you in a dispute about access? Contact Evening News reporter Sarah Brealey on 01603 772485 or email sarah.brealey@archant.co.uk.

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