Gloucester fishing row set for High Court

Roger Pearson looks at a court challenge to allow the continuation of Gloucester elver fishing rights

Five elver fishermen are heading for the High Court to challenge what they claim is an attempt to strip them of centuries old rights to fish the River Severn.

They are also suing a well- known Gloucester farmer and six hospital trustees for damages over what they claim has happened.

The men say they have been using rights granted since "time immemorial" to their predecessors and inhabitants of the city of Gloucester and the parishes of Hempsted, Epney and Longney to cross land in order to reach the River Severn to fish for elvers.

However, they accuse farmer Robert Keene, of Over, Gloucester, of wrongfully interfering with their rights and seeking to prevent elver fishing and they claim that as a result of his action they have suffered loss and damage.

The land in question, at Linton and Over Farms, has belonged to St Thomas' Hospital trustees since 1968. It abuts the river and a public footpath runs along its length and follows the approximate line of the river.

Now the five elver fishermen, Edward Wood, Roger Critchley, TJ Webb, James Milne and Arthur Gabb, all from the Gloucester area, are seeking a declaration that they and the inhabitants of the city of Gloucester and its parishes are entitled to fish for elvers in the river where it flows through the disputed areas.

They are also asking for a declaration that they and the inhabitants of the city and the parishes are entitled to a right to cross the land owned by the trustees in order to reach the water's edge to fish for elvers.

In addition they want an injunction restraining anyone from preventing or trying to prevent them from pursuing what they claim are their rights to fish the river for elver.

Solicitor James Scott, of Tetbury, Gloucestershire, is representing the fishermen. He said no date has yet been fixed for the hearing.