There are estimated to be 42,700 miles of river in the U.K. but only 1,400 have a clear and undisputed right of public access.
There is a great deal of evidence of such a right throughout our recorded history, from Roman Law to Saxon Charters, to Magna Carta, to the work of the Commissioners for Sewers who were charged with removal of obstructions to navigation, to the absence of the need to create specific rights of navigation within the Acts of Parliament creating statutory river navigations. The public right of navigation on all rivers capable of navigation was completely unquestioned for 1800 years.
Over the last 200 years a different view has been formed by some lawyers, landowners and fishing clubs based on riparian rights (rights associated with property bordering rivers). But it is an accepted principle of English law that such private rights are subservient to public rights.
In the case of Josie Rowland v Environment Agency, Mr Justice Lightman said 'Public Right of Navigation may only be extinguished by legislation or exercise of statutory powers or by destruction of the subject matter of PRN e.g. through silting up of the watercourse.'
Since the general public right of navigation has never been removed by statute or exercise of statutory powers, it must still exist today.
You are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.
Not everyone agrees with the view that a general public right of navigation continues to exist on all rivers physically capable of navigation subject only to the physical constraints of the river and the craft using them.
This page is to detail how and when those that hold these views believe the PRN ended.
If you would like to submit some information here please email us.
Please don't talk about Riparian Rights. These are private rights which are secondary in English law to public rights.
Whilst they have some significance where there is no public right of navigation, they can play no part in extinguishing a public right of navigation which can only be by statute or exercise of statutory authority.
See here for more details.
So if you know of such a statute or exercise of statutory authority, please tell us here.
We will publish below all serious views on how this is claimed to have happened. If there is nothing there it's because no one has any sensible suggestion for Statutes or exercise of statutory authority that has removed the general Public Right of Navigation.
Nothing has yet been suggested.
Will Russell of Chester, an angler and "lapsed" canoeist queried whether Magna Carta really implied a public right of navigation.
"Clause (33) "All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast. This is quoted as being relevant to navigation. However, it is more likely, ??, to protecting fishing rights rather than referring to navigation. (See his full email)
Fortunately we have no lesser authority than Parliament to confirm that it's clauses relate to the protection of rights of navigation on all rivers which would seem to conclusively address your concern.
Whereas, by the laudable Statute of Magna Carta, among other Things, it is contained That all Kedels by Thamise and Medway, and throughout the Realm of England, should be taken away, saving by the Sea-banks, which Statute was made for the great Wealth of all this Land, in avoiding the straitness of all Rivers, so that Ships and Boats might have in them their large and free Passage... (1472 Act for Wears and Fishgarthes)
"Throughout the Realm", "all this Land" and "all Rivers" seem to us to be totally unambiguous and should resolve your concern that Magna Carta dealt only with the navigation rights of the places referred to in clause 13.