Archive | October, 2013

Weymouth Angling’s Clubhouse Saved for Now

28 Oct

This week has, for me, been dominated by the fight to save Weymouth Angling Club’s clubhouse in the heart of Weymouth Harbour. Last Saturday I wrote here and to our members about the need for anglers to contact Councillors in Weymouth to let them know of their disgust about plans to bulldozer this building with nearly 40 years of history as a centre for club, national and international competitions. The Council wanted to expand the number of car parking spaces, just 100 yards away from a multi-storey car park that is never full. The response was phenomenal and Councillors were bombarded with e-mails from all over the country and in fact as far afield as Australia.

About 20 club members and representatives of other voluntary organisations which use the building attended a meeting of the Harbour Management Board, including several of those Councillors, on Monday and most took the opportunity to speak for 3 minutes each at the meeting. Weymouth’s Mayor Ray Banham spoke passionately in opposition to the proposals and said that they should never have been brought to the Board in the first place. Several Councillors backed him up and many expressed their anger and frustration that officers had brought this proposal to them. It was clear that the e-mail campaign, and the hard work of the club officials to brief Councillors over the weekend, had worked.

The Harbour Management Board rejected the Council’s proposals to demolish the Weymouth Angling Club’s harbour-side club house and instead voted for an amendment that should see the Club given a new 10 year lease and a secure future. However, this revised proposal will now go forward to another meeting attended by other Councillors on November the 5th and so there is no guarantee that it will be adopted.

Please help by signing the e-petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-weymouth-angling-society/ to ensure the clubhouse is saved.

Several Team England anglers and successful charter boat skippers over the years have learnt to fish at the club and some of its 70 junior members are currently involved with the Angling Trust’s Talent Pathway, which aims to identify future England anglers. The Clubhouse has been the headquarters of numerous national competitions, as well as European and World Championships in recent years, because of the facilities it offers to anglers.

It was built in1974 with assistance from grants from the Sports Council (£4650), Dorset County Council (£2000), a loan from the local council (£3,000, paid back by the club with interest), and £3,000 of the club’s own funds.

I think it’s amazing that the Council in Weymouth could even have considered demolishing such a successful and vibrant club that not only plays a vital role at the heart of the local community, but is also recognised as the unofficial centre of national and international sea angling. We are investing millions of pounds of government money nationwide in improving angling for the future, and it is unbelievable when local Councils come up with bone-headed ideas like demolishing a flourishing community centre to make way for a car park!

We need to fight battles like this up and down the country so that we can protect angling in all its forms. Please become a member of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal to help us do this vital work. You can now join for just £2.50 a month here: http://www.anglingtrust.net/join or by phoning 01568 620447 during office hours.

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Sad to See Richard Benyon Go

15 Oct
Our National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter (l) with former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon (r)

Our National Campaigns Coordinator Martin Salter (l) with former Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon (r)

This week David Cameron´s ministerial reshuffle saw Richard Benyon step down from his post as Fisheries Minister in the coalition government. This is unwelcome news – Richard Benyon was one of the best Fisheries Ministers we have had in living memory. He was a keen fisherman, and one who cared personally about fish and the water environment. He was also a very human Minister and always took a personable approach to meetings. Twice I met with him the morning after he had been negotiating fisheries matters in Europe all through the night and hadn’t slept at all, but he was still eager to hear what we had to say, to crack jokes and to ask how everything was going.

There’s a danger that some people will say that he didn’t achieve much for angling in his time as Fisheries Minister. They would be very wrong. He responded positively to our Judicial Review with WWF of the river basin management plans by releasing £92 million of new funding and pressing the Environment Agency to be more ambitious in improving our river habitats. He initiated a review of cormorant licensing and recently announced a needs-based approach to managing predation by cormorants and goosanders, with three new catchment advisors to be employed by the Angling Trust. He fought hard at a European level to deliver the first steps towards Common Fisheries Policy reform and to review the bass Minimum Landing Size.

He supported our vision of greater delivery of angling promotion and environmental management by third sector organisations and launched the National Angling Strategy last year, which has led to an increase in funding for our work that looks set to continue as his legacy. He has also worked on countless issues behind the scenes to ensure that issues we have raised with him are heard by the right people. Dredging, hydropower and the Severn Barrage all come to mind, but there are many others. His predecessors in the post would struggle to point to anything they did which was more significant for angling than any one of these achievements.

One thing that is very clear to me after nearly five years running the Angling Trust is that even for Ministers it is incredibly difficult to change policy, or to get the government machinery to do something new. To some extent this is a good thing, because if you get Ministers in post who have crazy ideas, the system is set up to avoid them doing too much damage before they are reshuffled. The consultation process, the civil servants and the constant fear of judicial review all mean that it is very hard for Ministers to make their mark. In four years in office, Richard Benyon certainly made his mark and I’d like to pay tribute to him, and thank him, for the personal commitment he made to protecting angling and the freshwater and marine environment. He will be much missed.

The Angling Trust has this week sent a briefing to the man who looks set to be Richard’s successor, George Eustice, with a request for an early meeting with him to reflect the importance of angling to more than 3 million voters. We will try to explain to him that for many of us, fishing is almost as important as life itself.

Please give us your support so that we can keep banging the drum for fish and fishing. It is a relentless, time-consuming and expensive business, but vital to ensure that these Ministers know what anglers want when they make decisions that affect us. We can only do it with the support of anglers like you. Join today at http://www.anglingtrust.net or phone 0844 7700616 during office hours.

Getting the word out at the Party conferences

11 Oct
Mark Lloyd, Owen Paterson and Sir George Young

Mark Lloyd, Owen Paterson and Sir George Young

Martin Salter and I have just completed a tour of Britain attending all three of the party political conferences. Our job was to ensure that anglers’ messages were heard at the top of British politics. The Trust jointly organised, with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), three ‘rural receptions’ at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, at Labour’s Brighton bash and with the Liberal Democrats in Glasgow. More than 300 conference delegates, ranging from local councillors to government Ministers, attended the events.

Sir George Young, the Chief Whip, came up to me at the Tory event and asked me what the most important issue was facing angling. There’s not an easy answer to that question when you think about it. Angling is so wide ranging that there are hundreds of issues that affect our sport. The environmental issues are mind-bogglingly diverse: at these conferences alone we discussed fracking, hydropower, commercial over-fishing, the Water Bill, cormorant predation, dredging of rivers and sewage pollution. But there are also all the social issues that have a big impact on angling: local authorities banning angling on council waters and piers, poaching, illegal canoeing and how our licence fees are spent by the EA are all hot topics at the moment. I had to give him a politicians answer and say that with 3 million participants and 37,000 employees, there was more than one big issue affecting our membership.

We spend nearly £8,000 attending and hosting receptions at the major party conferences each year because it is a vital way of getting all these messages heard and getting the political parties to put on record their support for angling. Ministers speaking at our events all referred to the millions of anglers who vote, the importance of angling to the economy and the role that anglers play protecting the water environment. These are all messages that the Angling Trust, as the unified representative body for all anglers, has managed to imprint on the core thinking of politicians in all the major parties. We want a situation where angling is always supported, whoever wins the General Election and for politicians to understand the importance of angling to us as individuals and a community when they make decisions that affect our lives.

We can only go to these events because of the generous support of our members and donors who pay a small amount so that we can do a very important job on behalf of angling as a whole. If you’re not a member, please join today at http://www.anglingtrust.net or phone 0844 7700616 during office hours.