Cornwall town charging people to use river insists fee is 'not a tourist tax'

River Fowey
Paul Thomas, the harbourmaster, insists the fee is not a stealth tax on tourists. Credit: BPM Media

Kayakers and paddle boarders will now have to pay to use the River Fowey in a bid to improve safety.

Fowey Harbour has decided to impose the fee on water users because of the huge rise in the number of kayaks and paddle boards in 2021.

Harbourmaster Paul Thomas denied it was a stealth tax on tourists and insisted all water users from Fowey up to Lostwithiel have to pay the harbour authority, with sailing boats and fishing vessels already paying a fee.

Mr Thomas said the new £20 fee per craft pays for a registration scheme that will help reunite lost kayaks and paddle boards with their owners and reduce emergency services time-wasting.

He said the last thing he wants is for needless massive search and rescue operations to be launched by RNLI crews and emergency services because of lost equipment.

All water users from Fowey up to Lostwithiel will now have to pay a fee to the harbour authority. Credit: BPM Media

He insisted: "It's not a tax on tourists. There is a small minority of people who rail against it but the idea is not new and we are behind other harbour authorities on this front.

"We are a non-profit making organisation and we have a duty of care to all water users. We have watched the dreadful incidents in Rock involving a paddle-boarder last year, so we decided to find a way to improve safety.

"We want to make sure that people who use the harbour and the river have a way to access all the safety advice and information they need and stay safe.”

Under the scheme, water users will be provided with a QR code sticker to put onto their paddle board or kayak.

Then if the harbour authority staff or RNLI crews come across any equipment found adrift, they can quickly make sure the owner is alive and well before launching a search.

Mr Thomas said if people do not apply and are aggressive or abusive, then it is within the harbour authority's rights to involve the police.

Anyone who joins Fowey’s canoe club will only have to pay £5 to register their water craft rather than the £20 charge now in place.

The funds raised will help employ a dedicated safety officer on the river.