A WIGAN canal has been restocked with fish - despite anglers being locked-out!
Fisherman were delighted when the watchdog Environment Agency announced a scheme this week to boost their sport by pouring more than 4,000 gleaming juvenile coarse fish into the Leeds and Liverpool to revive an area blighted by pollution.
But this has now turned to anger because British Waterways (BW) are refusing to unlock the gates to a fisherman’s car park on canal land near the towpath which has been the centre of a long running dispute.
The national canal owning body - which became a charity earlier this year - installed the barrier following a rash of fly tipping on the car park.
There were also two separate incidents of joy riders using the car park access to drive stolen cars into the canal waters.
They have subsequently refused to remove the bar-barrier despite a long battle with the fishing club who paid for and built the car park on BW land in the first place more than four years ago.
Now the anglers are threatening to challenge British Waterway’s newly acquired charity commission status over the issue because it means that only fit and younger fisherman will be able to carry all their baulky equipment to the canalside.
Angling Trust Wigan member John Weedon also claims the continuing closure is illegal because it breaches the terms of the Disabled Discrimination Act because it effectively bans disabled anglers from being able to access the rejuvenated canal length to enjoy their hobby.
Mr Weedon, who lives nearby in Abram, says that there is no reason why BW can’t operate a key system at Dover Lock as a number of other land owners who lease fishing rights on their waters successfully do.
He also points out that the Dover Lock car park is a key access point to the Plank Lane/Wigan Pier canal towpath walkway the council have spent “hundreds of thousands” creating.
Mr Weedon, 68, said: “It has annoyed everybody around here.
“And I have lost count of the number of times I have had my ear bent by anglers about it.
“It was locked a couple of years ago and there is just no way that Waterways will move on it.
“The car park may be on Waterways land but it was built and paid for by Ashton Centre of Northern Anglers and I think that they are being treated appallingly.
“Keeping this gate locked is completely against the Disabled Discrimination Act and I have worked with the DDA for more years than I can remember supplying briefings on behalf of disabled anglers and I am at a loss to know how they have got away with it for so long.”
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that they had no jurisdiction over the management of the angler’s car park at Dover Lock.
She confirmed: “Following a pollution incident in the Leeds Liverpool Canal a number of years ago, the Environment Agency has recently restocked around 4,000 fish into this section of canal.
“Roach and Perch have been put into this section of canal to help re-establish the fish stocks, and help to improve angling in the area.“
British Waterways had no one available to comment.