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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 10:26 GMT
Choppy waters on the canals
Michelle Mayman
The Politics Show North West

Rental disagreements are not plain sailing

Life on the canal-sides of Britain should be tranquil, but there is some choppy water with some canal-side residents.

The gardens of Shelley Road in Preston back onto the Lancaster Canal.

The residents can feed the swans and even catch the rare glimpse of a kingfisher on the water.

But most people along here don't own all their garden because the canal bank is actually owned by British Waterways.

Rent hike

Not long ago, out of the blue, letters dropped through their doors. They were from British Waterways demanding rents of between 100 and 300 along with other charges.

"Disgusting. They should be paying me for keeping the canal bank clear. People appreciate it so much when they see it like that rather than being like a jungle. I get complimented by every boat that comes down,", said Bill Danson of the Shelley Road Action Committee.

Canal lock
Canal-side residents are locked into rents with British Waterways

British Waterways tried to justify the rent increases which in some cases are 30 times what they are currently paying.

It blamed cuts to its funding - funding which comes from the government. It also said that it has to get more from its assets for the benefit of all British taxpayers.

It goes on to say it's conducting a review of all its rental and lease agreements not just those here in Shelley Road.

You texted us in droves during the show. Here is a selection:

"If you have used a piece of land for over 12 years you can claim ownership. Does this not apply to people on the canal?"
Mr Connor

"Residents should be re-embursed for all the years they tended the land owned by the waterboard who neglected the bank previously".

"If British Waterways wants to charge for gardens on our land then they should maintain it. I live on a boat and thank house owners for all their hard work. I pay a water license and a mooring license for my 57 foot narrowboat. Yet another rip off."
Mr Coombs

"I think British Waterways should concentrate on cleaning the canal of bikes and trollies and don't charge other people for keeping them clean".
John, Wrexham

"British Waterways should build a wall where their land starts. I think people would pay then".

"We live on Shelley Road and British Waterways have asked for 465 for one years rent. This has gone up from 10 per year and we've basically been presented with a take it or leave it attitude. At that increase we'll leave it."
Dave, Preston

There is a right to roam in the countryside, but what about on the waters..?

We also highlighted the issue of canoists calling for open access to the rivers in the Northwest. We have more than 4000 miles of main rivers in this region alone.

But only a fraction is open for paddling. But there are many competing interests on the rivers - not least of which the landowners and the anglers.

As your texts proved:

"I'm a watersports fan myself and it is really frustrating when you're battline your way through a tough section of water and you're suddenly cut off. The boundaries are not clear and it is easy to cross private land."
Grace, Crumpsall

"Very Simply anglers pay by renting or purchasing their fishing rights. Canoeists have the same option as anglers but are not prepared to pay".

"The environment agency has proven with a report that canoeing does not have an adverse effect on fish. There is no environmental reason not to give all water users a right to responsible access on all rivers and lakes in England and Wales".

"I'm a paddler and an ecologist. The environmental impact of getting out of a canoe on the bank is minimal to say the least. It certainly has less impact than using a hook to pull a fish out of the river. The situation is purely financial in the eyes of the landowner."
Peter Owens

"Ask these canoeists to pay the same as fishing costs on rivers with licenses totalling 600 per year."
Brian, Heswall

"They make me furious as an angler I pay for a license for fishing and any fishing rights. Like ramblers they moan and groan but don't want to pay".

"Hang up your inland kayak folks. Access to rivers has got worse and worse over the 35 years I have been canoeing. Too many canoeists have taken advantage of carefully negotiated access agreements without supporting the British Canoe Union. Where access exists the rivers are overcrowded. I canoe on the sea."

The Politics Show

The Politics Show for the North West and Cumbria, with Jon Sopel and Annabel Tiffin on Sunday 27 January 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.

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