Anglers remain frustrated with Severn Trent plc after the Angling Trust met with senior officials of the company regarding its decision to close Draycote Reservoir to all angling in 2010.

At a meeting in February and in a subsequent exchange of correspondence, the Angling Trust has expressed its grave concerns that the decision to close Draycote to angling was taken without consultation with either the local angling club or the company’s own Conservation, Access, Recreation and Ecology Group (CAREAG) which comprises representatives of a range of stakeholders. The Trust suggested that had such consultation taken place before the decision had been taken, it might have been possible to identify a workable compromise which allowed some fishing to continue at this very important venue while redevelopment work on the visitors centre was carried out.

The Angling Trust has also challenged the company to demonstrate that its decision is in compliance with the requirements of the Code of Practice in the Water Industry Act which requires water companies to consult with the National Governing Bodies for sports, amongst others. We are still awaiting a reply to this question. The local angling club and the Angling Trust were only made aware of this decision after it had been taken; we believe that this is an announcement rather than a consultation.

The Angling Trust considers that this refusal to consult with the local organisations such as Draycote Flyfishers or the national governing body of the sport is a contravention of the Company’s legal obligations and its community policy as displayed on its website.

The Company has recently announced that it will be discontinuing its CAREAG to replace it with more local consultation arrangements. The Angling Trust understood from the meeting that Paula Betteridge, General Manager of Public Access Sites for Severn Trent, had agreed to set up user groups at all the company’s main sites so that they could be consulted in advance about any future plans for the waters.

However, Ms Betteridge wrote in a letter to the Angling Trust following the meeting that she disagreed with this recollection: But for the avoidance of doubt I did not say that I would establish user groups at all our main sites. I stressed that I believed we should be engaging on a regular basis with our tenants (who directly interface with the users) and that I would be continuing to encouraging [sic] the Site Managers to adopt a policy of regular and open dialogue with tenants in whatever way is the most appropriate for the different sites.

The Trust also raised the issue of the future plans for angling once the work is completed on the visitors centre. The one positive outcome was that the companys representative has now confirmed in writing that I can confirm that it is our intention for Draycote to be open again for anglers in the 2011 season. However, it seems that angling will in future be much more limited in scope at the site, in line with the Company’s policy to segregate anglers from other users and to ban angling from any operational structure, which includes dams. This policy was implemented at Severn Trent’s Foremark reservoir in 2009 and has seen the bank available to anglers reduced by some two-thirds.

Angling Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd said: Despite all our efforts, the company has given nothing for the tens of thousands of anglers who fish at Draycote, and a host of local businesses who rely on visiting anglers, to cheer about, other than a weak commitment to open the reservoir to some fishing in 2011. Inadequate consultation procedures, plans for forcing anglers to fish away from other users and inflexible management all indicate that angling at Severn Trent sites is destined for a gloomy future.

Given the region’s strategic importance for providing angling facilities for the whole of England, this is a grim prospect for angling as a whole. We will continue our campaign to get the company to consult properly in future with angling clubs and the Angling Trust and to take a more pragmatic approach to risk management at its sites. 

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