At our relaunch event in Oct 2021, we laid out our intention to address the sustainability of the Broads Fishery and our membership supported this unanimously to place the Broads Fishery on a sustainable footing. We have seen through the whole Hoveton saga, that the statutory bodies have little interest in fishing and fisheries, so we either take control ourselves or see the demise of the Broads fishery.
January has been an exceptional busy time, as we get to grips with building on this ambition, with Duncan and I now spending most of this month scoping and drafting a funding submission to move this forward. Below is the background which many of you will be familiar with and with the recent government Landscape Review proposals published, the time is right to explore this further and its feasibility in how we use and sustain the Broads.
Back in 2020 two anglers appeared in court and prosecuted for theft of Broads fishing rights at Great Yarmouth magistrates court on the 20th Nov [i]. A Pike Angler was found guiltily for Fishing Without Permission in Horsey Mere the previous January. This is a criminal offence and as such he was handed a 12 month conditional discharge and a criminal record and costs of £641.
This opened up a discussion on what this meant for anglers who fish from bank or boat within the Broads tidal waterways and who have claimed for years is free to fish being tidal water under the King John’s Magna Carta, 1215.
This case has established that landowners do have riparian rights and can choose to legally enforce these rights when appropriate. Previous thoughts that Magna Carta covered and installed these rights were repealed in 1969. However in this particular case, the water in question, Horsey Mere was subject to an enclosure order and as such gave the landowner back the riparian rights to fish. There currently appears no legal president for these riparian rights across the wider Broads tidal waterways and as such BASG were strongly challenged by local anglers on any moves to change this status quo.
Matters have now evolved in 2021 that the Environment Agency have made quite clear in recent months their intention is to dispose of all fishery assets and liabilities within the Broads, which anglers have enjoyed their use for many decades funded from a mixture of Rod Licence and Government Grant in Aid. These assets have been assessed as requiring an annual budget of £23,000 to both maintain and sustain. So without a funded solution these assets of 5.5kms of bank and 77 platforms / key headings will be lost.
The ongoing issues to secure the Broads from anti-social behavior, with places like Postwick becoming tainted by groups with little consideration for others and the environment surrounding them, led BASG to investigate the position at Postwick back in 2020 with partners and found little legal powers existed to enable any satisfactory outcome that could be legally enforced. However with the venue being part of the assets listed above that the EA wants to depose of, we again need to address this once and for all. There is also a strong need to eradicate the seemingly increasing environment harm to wildlife from entanglement with anglers’ lines and terminal tackle. There is more than enough space for both wildlife and anglers to enjoy the wonderful surroundings of the Broads and this is another subject we will place some focus on during 2022.
The issue of trespass onto private land has been recognised as an issue to the Government to review the legal powers, by the strengthening of police powers to tackle unauthorised encampments and trespass. These powers are included within the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021[ii], which is currently going through its final readings. The recently published landscape review [iii] also made reference to enhance Broads rangers bye-laws. We believe these becomes a game changer for the management of venues such as Postwick from anti-social behaviors and with the appropriate controls and structures would enable the venue to become safe for all to enjoy, like it once was.
But this requires a step change and the introduction of a formal management scheme to protect, manage and enable legal rights of access to these venues we have all used for generations. The government landscape review makes significant reference to land use and landowner reforms on being rewarded for recreational benefit.
This is the scope of exploring this whole market with the application into the Natural Environment Investment Fund to look at the feasibility of such models to bring together landowners, tourism and recreation.
Clearly there is much to do, before this can be implemented. But Postwick being the most likely candidate for a pilot of such a solution to place the Broads Fishery on the sustainable footing.
In 2020, the local angling community strongly opposed a permit style scheme at Postwick, but unfortunately put forward no meaningful alternative solutions on how to sustain the Broads Fishery. One is clearly needed as there continues to be an ever-increasing list of lost fishing access in an area that already has limited bank access and increasing visitor numbers.
Kelvin Allen Chair of BASG