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Canal and river licences

Canal and River Licences (FS120617)

(Updated July 2018)


Most inland waters in England and Wales are privately owned and permission must be gained from the owner before carrying out any activities on these waters. There are some places where permission is not required:- the sea, most stretches of tidal water and some public and common law navigations. There are also waters which require licences in order for them to be used. This page gives details of these waters and the licensing authorities who manage them.

Identification of craft

There is no longer any formal requirement for each craft within scouting to be identified via one means, the requirement is now for boats to be uniquely identifiable to the owner/operator. For waters where a license is needed, some will require a specific form of identification and others will require the user of the craft to be identifiable as being a member of The Scout Association. In the latter case an adult with the appointment card should suffice.

Licensing Authorities

The Scout Association purchase an annual bulk licence to cover all members operating on Canal and River Trust waters in non-motorized craft. This applies to the use of waters which fall within their standard licensing scheme, details can be found at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/boating/licensing.

 For powered craft both long and short term licences are available directly from the Canal and River Trust.

Canoe England will issue waterways licenses which allow access to a wide range of waters. To benefit from this check out full details on their website at:


All craft using water above Teddington must be registered or exempted by the Environment Agency - Thames Region.

Scout Groups should apply to the Environment Agency for a discount under the youth organisation and club scheme, this will apply to all non motorised craft.

Further information and licences are available from:


Licences for the Wey and Godalming Navigations are available direct from National Trust Navigation Office,

Licences for both the Medway and the Royal Military Canal are available from the Environment Agency, Scout Groups should apply to the Environment Agency for exemption or licence of craft which are owned by the Group and are used solely for training purposes, different rates apply for single use, annual use and motorized boats.

Further information and licences are available from:


Note: The Royal Miltary Canal permits access to non powered craft only.

There is a public right of passage from Welshpool to Gloucester. Craft owned or operated by The Scout Association (and identified by a member carrying their appointment card) are covered by the BWA Act 1971 concession.

This is a statutory navigation. The exact status of the River above Hey is disputed and local advice should be taken.

Licences are available from  http://www.bridgewatercanal.co.uk/boating/licensing.

Craft in possession of a Canal and River Trust licence are covered under a reciprocal arrangement, therefore scouts operating in non-powered craft are exempt from the requirement for a separate licence, a current appointment card must be carried by the group.

The Great Ouse, Nene, Ancholme, Stour, Welland and Glen require a licence via the Environment Agency. Licences are available from The Environment Agency – Anglia Region.

All craft using the Norfolk boards are subject to licencing, licences are available from the Broads Authority

It should not be assumed that because a waterway does not come under any of the above authorities then no permission is required. Only local sources and enquiries will enable you to ascertain if permission can be granted, whether a licence is required and if any charge is made.  Enquiries should be made through the County Water Activities Adviser of the area you wish to visit. Water Activities Advisers can normally be contacted through the County Secretary.


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Charity Numbers 306101 (England and Wales) and SC038437 (Scotland).
Registered address: The Scout Association, Gilwell Park, Chingford, London, England E4 7QW