A BRIDGEWATER Canal user fears 'boating activity' on the waterway at Lymm is at risk due to 'a ridiculous amount of enforcement activity'.

The 39-mile waterway, which connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh, is owned by Bridgewater Canal Company Ltd and currently employs two enforcement officers.

However, Chris Pilgram, who has had a boat on the canal for more than 20 years, said there is now a 'lack of boating activity' because of a management change.

"Since that time there has been a ridiculous amount of enforcement activity, such as pestering boaters to move off the towpath even when they are causing no problems," he said.

"I do not live on my boat but look forward to using it in the summer.

"One of the clearest results of this nonsensical over-policing of the canal means that the village of Lymm rarely has any boats moored there.

"Canal and River Trust (CRT) licence holders are chased off the canal after seven days with no return for a month. So they don't come.

"Lymm was always a vibrant boating centre, which benefited both the ambience of the village and the income of the businesses.

"I really don't want to give up boating but the whole experience is being ruined by this issue.

"Why should my hobby of 20 plus years be ruined by what I can only describe as mismanagement of the waterway?"

Peter Parkinson, general manager of Bridgewater Canal, has responded to the criticism.

He said: "The Bridgewater Canal Company employs two enforcement officers, as several years ago numerous complaints were received from canal side residents and both CRT and Bridgewater boaters in regards to the number of unlicensed, illegal and abandoned craft on the canal and reports of anti-social behaviour.

"We have a reciprocal agreement with CRT where each can use each other's waters for free for seven days and thereafter a weekly permit is required by each boater on each other's waters.

"We found that some of these overstaying and unlicensed boats tended to congregate in popular visiting locations, including Lymm and Stockton Heath, so Bridgewater Canal boaters and other genuine visiting CRT boaters could not visit these popular spots.

"The Bridgewater Canal Company wants a healthy, clean, happy and vibrant waterway and we encourage all genuine licensed CRT boats to come and visit our delightful canal.

"However, we must insist that all visitors abide by the rules and regulations of the canal."