Angling Trust and Fish Legal intervene to save Kennet from further habitat damage

Angling Trust News Release

This week saw a high level meeting called with the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) following a formal complaint from the Angling Trust and Fish Legal regarding habitat destruction on the River Kennet and Kennet & Avon Canal between Reading and Newbury.

Angling Trust and Fish Legal member clubs, including Newbury AA and Reading & District AA, who rent the stretches affected by the CRT bank clearance works, were not properly consulted on the potential impacts to their fisheries. The intervention, which was fully supported by local MP Richard Benyon, saw the winter works programme put on hold - but not before considerable damage occurred to the lower river between Burghfield and Theale and a section of the canal at Newbury.

The extent of the CRT works, which were far in excess of what is required to maintain navigation, had already caused considerable damage to riverine environment and removed vital cover for fish and other wildlife as well as destroying bird nesting sites.

In a letter to Peter Birch, CRT’s National Environment Manager the Angling Trust Campaigns Chief, and Kennet regular, Martin Salter, wrote:

“We appreciate the need to maintain a navigable passage, particularly on narrow sections of the canal that are perhaps 14 metres wide. But there is no earthly reason why 35 metre wide stretches of river such as the Kennet at Theale and Burghfield, need every bush, branch and twig sheared off level with the edge of the bank.”

Mr Salter continued:

“As no such consultation has taken place with either club, or it seems with your own Angling and Fisheries staff, we must ask that you immediately put a halt to these works and commence consultation with affected clubs as well as with ourselves.”

Following this week’s meeting the CRT agreed to downgrade the contractor’s specification on the remainder of the waterway between Reading and Newbury for offside vegetation and individual trees from Standard 2 to Standard 1 which requires no more than a minimal free channel of 5m high and 14m wide for navigation purposes. This allows the majority of bankside vegetation and cover to remain in place.

A new consultation procedure will also be put in place to enable clubs to respond more effectively to any proposed programme of works.

Del Shackleford, Fisheries Officer for Reading & District AA, said:

“In the 13 years that I have been working on the Kennet and K&A Canal the communication between angling clubs and both the Environment Agency and the Canal & Rivers Trust has improved significantly which is why it was so disappointing to see such damage being done to our fisheries. Fortunately, a prompt, powerful and effective intervention by the Angling Trust and Fish Legal saw the works suspended and a new programme agreed which will protect important habitat for fish and wildlife while allowing sufficient access for safe navigation.”

Martin Salter added:

“Whilst we are grateful to Peter Birch for responding positively we don’t want our member clubs to be caught out again nor do we want to see fish habitat needlessly destroyed. We urge everyone who rents water from the CRT to liaise with their local Waterways Managers to ensure that they get early warning of any planned winter clearance works and to press for the minimum necessary to maintain navigable passage and not a twig or branch more.”