Safeguarding the future of the river Usk.
Minutes of Committee Meeting 13 July 2020
- The meeting took place using Google Meet, which is temporarily free for meetings longer than one hour.
- Apologies were received from Mike Cowburn and Gary Davies.
Members present were Harry Legge-Bourke, James Cresswell, Charles de Winton, Helen Harrison, Rob Kerby and Tony Rees.
- Notes for this meeting’s minutes were taken by Helen Harrison.
- River Usk Open for fishing: The Committee confirmed that the river Usk is now open for legal fishing.
- Poaching: Rob Kerby presented a written summary regarding the severe increase in poaching and illegal use of the river since the Covid pandemic lockdown took place. Although the Gwent Police has not been able to respond to some requests for back-up, they have been given as much intelligence as is possible which is to both parties’ interest. It is understood that follow-up is taking place where there is reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution.
There has been some tension when the Rural Crime Team has been unable to assist, even though most people realise the limited resources the police force have. Harry Legge-Bourke has contacted the Gwent Police Chief Constable asking that there is a more co-ordinated approach between Powys and Gwent constabularies.
Wild camping and wild swimming has been on the increase without permission from the land and/or riparian owners, which is of great concern, especially when websites encourage it and some indicate where it is available even though it isn’t.
- Access for Paddlers: Charles de Winton gave the Committee a review of what has taken place at the National Access Forum Sub-group Access to Water. The Group has had two Skype meetings. It is clear that if no agreement is reached between the interested parties, the current Government will enforce it through legislation. The Access issue is very likely to run out of time to be considered before the Welsh elections in May 2021 because of the lockdown and the Brexit discussions. However, it is important that the Group continues its brief to find a way for the interested parties to agree an approach which will then be offered for consultation.
The Group has come up with some key principles:
- River user licence
- Reduction of landowner/riparian owner liabilities
- An access water payment scheme
- Practicalities such as separating when different users have access, seasonality of use, water levels and environmental sustainability.
In addition, the Group want to persuade Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) on support the idea to open up its reservoirs up for use, which would reduce the pressure on rivers. Some reduction in its liability is likely to be needed. An UFA Committee member said he thought DCWW already had an agreement with Canoe Wales that it can use reservoirs, but that the agreement is too restrictive on the canoeists.
The next step would be to run a pilot and see how the proposals work in practice. And how prepared the Government is to fund such a pilot scheme. This question has been raised with the Minister in June 2020, as yet with no response. As with CRoW (Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000), each river would also need to be inspected to check what use, if any, is viable on each Welsh river.
The other matters of importance are:
- Strong legislation and regulation
- Strong enforcement which, therefore, means sufficient resources
- Communication particularly with riparian owners
- Communication, with the English public so that they know the regulations are different from those in England
ACTION: Helen Harrison to circulate the Minutes of the Access to Water Sub-Group along with the UFA Committee meeting minutes to UFA members.
- Website and Facebook page: Helen Harrison said that she needs to gain training on how to put up News on the new website. She has been using the UFA Facebook page as a way of communicating. The UFA Facebook page has 108 followers without any costs to UFA.
- Membership: James Cresswell reported that he had tried to increase the details regarding riparian owners on the river Usk and has gained limited additional information. GDPR (General Protection Data Regulation) appropriately prevents WUF (Wye and Usk Foundation) from sharing its information. He offered to complete the map digitisation process and needs a Memorandum of Undersrstanding to be in place between UFA and WUF for this to be undertaken.
Tony Rees offered to include an A5 UFA membership subscription form with his next letter to the MTAA (Merthyr Tydfil Angling Alliance) members. The Committee agreed to this kind offer.
ACTION: Harry Legge-Bourke will contact Simon Evans, WUF, to agree on behalf of UFA for this to take place. Helen Harrison to create an A5 UFA membership subscription form, which includes reasons for joining.
- UFA AGM: Helen Harrison raised the matter of the postponed AGM. The Committee agreed that such a meeting could not take place with people attending and to re-consider the matter at the next UFA committee meeting, date to be agreed.
- Any other business: Harry Legge-Bourke thanked Helen Harrison for organising Google Meet for this meeting and for those that attended for their contribution.