Anglers at the River Quoile are frustrated that those with disabilities are still being ‘denied freedom of fishing’ after new railings at the Old Floodgates prevents them from having direct access to the river to fish.
Despite several pleas from local anglers and a commitment from DAERA to address the issue, nothing has been done.
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[Article below taken from the Down Recorder, 24 May 2021]
CONCERN about access to the Quoile River in Downpatrick for disabled anglers is to be addressed by a leading government department.
The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that the Environment Agency is to be asked to approve the possible installation of disabled angling stands beside the two designated disabled parking bays at a redeveloped car park beside the river’s floodgates.
The Department — which has also agreed to meet with local anglers — said if the new stands are provided, they will reduce the need for those with mobility issues to have to make their way to an existing stand around a quarter of a mile from the car park.
Anglers have expressed concern that a new barrier erected on a wall which separates the car park from the waterway now prevents disabled anglers from fishing at this location.
They say it is over a year since they were informed that new stands for those with mobility issues was being discussed by civil servants, calling for their immediate implementation.
DAERA insists that the riverside car park was never designated either as a specific angling area or one for the use of disabled fishermen, conceding that local anglers disagree with this point which is why a meeting with them to discuss the issue is necessary.
In a letter to anglers, the Department confirms that neither they nor Disability NI were consulted about the work at the car park as it would not restrict or remove disabled angling facilities. It’s a point that anglers disagree with.
DERA explained the work on the banks of the river created two dedicated disabled parking spaces in the car park where previously there had been none.
“There was no legal requirement to consult on the proposed improvement works and therefore the consultation undertaken went beyond what was required, to specifically notify as well as seek comment and feedback from site users,” said a departmental official.
He also confirmed that notice of DAERA’s intention to carry out improvement work was clearly displayed at the Quoile site in advance of it being undertaken.
The official also confirmed that consultation on the car park investment was initiated with Newry, Mourne and Down Council and a number of local councillors who were contacted by telephone about the proposed investment.
DAERA confirmed that regular tree inspections are carried out at the Quoile River and that after storms, areas of the Quoile Nature Reserve are checked by staff for fallen trees and branches that may have come down.
In addition, it says this area is subject to regular visual inspections by staff and where any concerns are identified, advice will be sought from qualified tree surgeons or arboriculturists any necessary work carried out.
In his letter to anglers, the DAERA official said he appreciates that it was not satisfactory for disabled anglers to make their way to access current angling facilities a quarter of a mile from the car park, confirming plans for two new educated stands to meet the needs of those with mobility problems.
A spokesman for Downpatrick anglers said they have never suggested that there was a dedicated disabled fishing stand at the car park before it was redeveloped. He said fishermen could fish in the river at the car park from their wheelchairs as there was a small wall in place.
“Since the car park was redeveloped, a barrier has been attached to the wall which now makes it impossible for disabled anglers to fish from this location. As a result, they have to make their way, along with all their gear, to another stand which is a quarter of a mile away,” he said.
“This is highly unsatisfactory. Would it be proper to tell someone with mobility issues who stops in a car park to be told that the shopping centre, GP surgery or disabled toilet that they needed to visit was half a mile away? I suspect not.”
The spokesman added local anglers have been told about plans for disabled fishing stands at the car park for some time now and that the Environment Agency is being asked for its view.
“What we want to see is delivery for disabled anglers. They have rights which must be recognised,” he said.
The spokesman added: “We remain in the eye of a pandemic and mental health is a major issue for many health professionals who are concerned about the fall-out from the impact of the coronavirus. Fishing is very therapeutic and we would strongly argue that the provision of new disabled angling stands on the banks of the Quoile should be a priority and will be of tremendous benefit.”
Anglers have also expressed concern that the redeveloped car park on the banks of the river has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour are are thankful that no one was injured when a large branch fell to the ground several weeks ago. They insist that the anti-social behaviour problems cannot go left unchecked.