Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas from the Broads National Park

Welcome to the Broads National Park – that is the Christmas greeting after the long running legal battle over the national park name finally ended in the Authority’s favour.

The High Court gave the go ahead for the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads to use the term to clearly promote its special qualities, equivalent to those of the 14 other UK national parks.

And the Rt Hon Lord Justice Simon refused leave to appeal, signalling the end to more than a year of legal wrangling and the end of the process.

The Chair of the Broads Authority, Prof Jacquie Burgess said she was “thrilled” that the judge had recognised the clear rationale for the name.

“The Broads fully deserves to be known as a national park – as much as the Lake District, the Cairngorms or any of the US Parks such as the Everglades or Yosemite.”

The Broads was not designated under the 1949 National Park legislation because of the additional complexity associated with managing its waterways but was given an equivalent status to that of a National Park in 1989 under its own Act of Parliament.

The Broads Authority receives a National Park Grant, has the same first two purposes as the other National Parks relating to conservation and recreation and the Broads has the same protection under the planning legislation.

The move to identify the Broads as a National Park came out of a desire to more clearly promote its national park credentials and special qualities and Prof Burgess said the historic decision could benefit all three of its purposes.

“The National Park brand is internationally recognised and hugely appealing to visitors. It is shorthand for a place that is special, is properly looked after and deserves to be valued by everyone who visits and lives there,” she said.

“Using that term better promotes the special qualities of the Broads and highlights the importance of conservation while increased interest in the Broads from visitors will help support the boating industry.”

Broads Authority members took the decision in January 2015 to use the term Broads National Park to promote the area. The legal challenge was then brought by a local couple concerned about conservation interests because the previous long term ambition to become a national park in law was dropped as part of that decision.

The Broads Authority name will continue for the organisation itself.

The conclusion of the case following the judgement at the end of November was welcomed by stakeholders.

Peter Charlesworth, Chairman of National Parks UK, said: “National Parks UK wholeheartedly welcomes the decision by the high court to uphold the branding of this magnificent area as the Broads National Park.

“We’re confident that this strong sense of identity as one of the UK’s 15 most iconic landscapes can encourage more people to visit this wonderful place, learn more about its special qualities and experience the scenic waterways, rare wildlife and rich cultural heritage first hand.

“We are also positive that it can help highlight the vital contribution the UK’s National Parks make to the UK economy - attracting around 106 million visitors, and generating over £6 billion in spend each year.”

Julian Roughton, Chief Executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “The Broads is not only one of the UK’s finest landscapes but is also exceptionally important amongst National Parks for its wildlife. National Park branding can attract more visitors to come for a superb wildlife experience and help ensure that the Broads’ special qualities are safeguarded for the future.”

Tony Urwin, Vice Chairman of Broads Tourism, said: "The phrase National Park is an instantly recognisable highly positive brand, both at home and internationally. Not only would it help promote the Broads to more visitors but those visitors will know from the National Park name what a very special place the Broads is.”

Michael Whittaker, Chairman of the Authority’s Navigation Committee, said: “Branding the area rather than seeking a legal change is an eminently pragmatic move which took into account the views of all representative groups during a thorough consultation process.”

Simon Altham, Managing Director of Hoseasons, said: “The national parks have entered into the psyche of British holidaymakers, and have become synonymous with everything the Broads has to offer as a destination; tranquillity, natural beauty and the enjoyment of the great outdoors.”

Fiona Howie, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “We see the Broads as an essential part of the National Parks family and are pleased that this decision has confirmed that the area can be promoted as such.”

Pete Waters, Executive Director of Visit East Anglia, said: “The only way we can get a competitive edge over other regions when it comes to attracting visitors is to leverage our unique assets and increase our saleability, and the Broads National Park will resonate not only nationally but internationally too.”

Friday, 18 November 2016

Members approve shake up in tolls

Members today approved the biggest shake up in Broads tolls for more than three decades in a bid to more fairly link charges to vessel size.

The Broads Authority met to debate the recommendations of the Tolls Review Group for a ‘straight line relationship’ directly between size of vessel by square metre and toll charge.

It means that smaller boats will pay less than previously and bigger boats more but Louis Baugh, Broads Authority and Tolls Review Group member said it was designed to make the system “fairer, simpler and more flexible”.

The proposal, with amendments recommended by the Navigation Committee to not increase the charge for Mutford Lock and to retain lower tolls for electric boats, was carried by 15 votes in favour with one against and two abstentions.

The total income from the hire boat and private boat collective fleets will remain in the same proportion as currently.

But after some debate about the value of passenger boats there was an additional proposal by members which was approved by 17 votes to one. This gives the Chief Executive delegated powers to consult with the Tolls Review Group to review and set passenger boat charges with any necessary redistribution of charges made within the commercial fleet.

The recommendations of the Tolls Review Group, made up of seven Authority members, five of whom are also Navigation Committee members and toll payers representing both commercial and private boating interests, came after a year of research and analysis.

Members also anticipate that the proposed new system will boost entry level boating which has been in decline while numbers of larger vessels have increased.

However it was also resolved by 16 votes to one against with one abstention that the Authority undertake an evaluation of the impact of the changes to the tolls structure in the autumn of 2019 as part of a second round of stakeholder research.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Fairer tolls proposed for boaters

The biggest shake up in Broads tolls for more than three decades would result in a fairer way of directly linking charges to vessel size, the Broads Authority announced today.

At present, in addition to navigation charges relating to size, there is a fixed cost imposed on every vessel, resulting in smaller boats paying proportionately more per square metre than bigger vessels.

But after a year of research and analysis the Tolls Working Group is recommending that only a charge based on size is used for greater fairness and simplicity.

The recommended ‘straight line relationship’ between size of vessel by square metre and toll charge means that smaller boats will pay less than previously and bigger boats more but has been designed to make the system more equitable, simple and flexible.

Even with the annual tolls rise being imposed the proposals mean that nearly half (44pc) of boaters would pay less in 2017/18 than in 2016/17 (full Navigation Committee report).

The Tolls Working Group, made up of seven Authority members, five of whom are also Navigation Committee members and toll payers representing both commercial and private boating interests, also anticipate that the proposed new system will boost entry level boating which has been in decline while numbers of larger vessels have increased.

The group’s report will now go to the Navigation Committee meeting next Thursday (27 October) when all its members will be asked to comment on the proposals before the full Authority decides whether to approve them.

John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, said: “For a long while there has been a disproportionate relationship between size of boat and the amount of toll paid. While we understand that there will inevitably be those who benefit more than others from this recommended change the key aim is for the system to be fairer overall so that the charges for each vessel type are based on size and size alone.

“In effect each class of vessel on the Broads will, with the exception of a very small number of special cases, be charged a fixed amount per square metre. This also builds in the scope for flexibility to respond to changing situations.”

Greg Munford, Chief Executive of Richardson’s Leisure and a private boat owner, said: “The recommendations and rationale behind the introduction of the new tolls system looks sensible to me. It is far easier to understand and provides a solution that would be hard to argue is not fair when the toll each boat owner pays is based on the size of vessel that they own.”

Jacquie Burgess is Chairman of the Broads Authority and took the role of joint Chairman of the Tolls Working Group along with Michael Whitaker, a Partner at Herbert Woods hire boat operator. She said the group considered all evidence and views carefully and took into full consideration the responses after consulting with the Broads Hire Boat Federation and the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association.

Prof Burgess added: “There is no perfect answer to structuring the tolls system but after a year of comprehensively and carefully analysing all the evidence available, consulting with all the main boating organisations and taking into consideration their feedback as well as detailed stakeholder research I am confident that the Tolls Working Group has come up with the best and fairest solution possible.”

In light of feedback from commercial operators the group proposes that the hire boat multiplier of 2.55 is abandoned in favour of a fixed amount per square metre specific to each classification of vessel.

Seven categories are proposed for commercial vessels and five for private vessels. However rowing boats, canoes and kayaks will pay a fixed charge, which will depend on whether they are private or commercial.

The eight remaining traditional wherries will also see a considerably lower than at present flat rate to reflect and protect their iconic status and their importance to the cultural heritage of the Broads.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Your views, your Broads: Consultation on the revised draft Broads Plan 2017

The most important management plan for the Broads is being developed and the Broads Authority wants everyone to have their say.

The Authority is currently inviting comments on the revised draft Broads Plan, which is being reviewed and updated. A new plan will be implemented in April 2017, covering the period 2017-22.

A partnership plan, coordinated by the Broads Authority, it sets out a long-term vision for the Broads and guiding strategic actions for the benefit of the environment, local communities and visitors.

Andrea Long, Director of Planning and Resources, said: “The Broads Authority would like to hear what people think about managing water resources and flood risk, biodiversity, agriculture, navigation, landscape character, the historic environment, climate change, recreational experiences, connecting and inspiring people, and raising awareness of the Broads, or anything else which is important to them.”

The revised draft plan is available online at www.broads-authority.gov.uk/broadsconsultations

You can also view it at the Broads Authority’s Yare House office or at many local libraries and council offices.

Please send your comments by email to broadsplan@broads-authority.gov.uk or by post to Maria Conti, Strategy and Projects Officer, Broads Authority, Yare House, 62-64 Thorpe Road, Norwich NR1 1RY, to arrive by 4pm on Friday 30 December 2016.


Friday, 12 August 2016

Joint purchase of a boat by Chairman and Head of Planning

Last September Authority Chairman Jacquie Burgess and Head of Planning Cally Smith asked the Solicitor and Monitoring Officer to investigate whether the joint purchase of a small keelboat would infringe any of the Authority’s codes of conduct.

Piero Ionta, the then Solicitor and Monitoring Officer, cleared the purchase and it went ahead. Subsequently, Victoria McNeil, the Authority’s Monitoring Officer at that time, reviewed a complaint from a member of the Authority regarding the purchase and concluded there was no wrongdoing.

Jacquie and Cally are clear that the joint purchase has not affected their professionalism or decision making. However they appreciate that there may be a perception otherwise and therefore Jacquie has bought the boat fully so it is no longer jointly owned.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Water plants in Hickling Broad

By Dan Hoare, Environment and Design Supervisor

Surveys of Hickling Broad have demonstrated that less than a fifth of the broad bed is covered by plants.

Hydro-acoustic (sonar) surveys of the broad in mid-June found that detectable plants only covered 17.4% of the whole broad bed – a relatively low amount for such a naturally plant-dominated shallow waterbody.

The map below shows the area where plants were present as green hatchings and the water draught as depth contours. Development of any further plant growth over the summer will be followed closely.

Map showing the area where plants were present as green hatchings and the water draught as depth contours
The Broads Authority has agreement from Natural England for water plant cutting in the marked channel of Hickling Broad if water plants reach high growth levels throughout the Broad and boat access through to Hickling village is impeded.

Both organisations have a duty to protect the special ecological value of this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as well as ensuring peoples’ use and enjoyment of the area is maintained. We welcome the pragmatic and practical approach to the challenge of channel management and boating access taken by Natural England and the landowners, Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

The surveys showed several areas where water plants were high and visible to the surface, but these were distinct and confined to areas north of Pleasure Island, on the western margins and in the north bay.

There were also several patchy areas of less dense plants, but with tall (more than 50 cm) straggling growth. The tall plants were typically fennel-leaved pondweed and spiked water milfoil. It is these plant species that have caused issues with some keels and smaller engines getting fouled when travelling outside the marked channel.

The rare stonewort species were also present in the broad, growing close to the sediment in their characteristic billowing beds.

The data has been processed to provide the summary figures in the following table. The survey is carried out on a grid pattern over the broad, which totalled 12.4 kilometres of survey distance, to give a representative sample.


Average water depth (m)
0.68
Maximum water depth (m)
1.58
Average plant height (m)
0.18
Maximum plant height (m)
1.11
Area of broad covered by plants >8 cm (%)
17.4
Plants as % of water volume (PVI) (%)
5.5
 
An example of the graphical output of the survey is shown here where the red line is the surface of the plants present and the black line is the sediment surface. All the data collected is linked to a GPS so can be plotted accurately on maps to show where the plants are located.

Survey graphical output. The red line is the surface of the plants present and the black line is the sediment surface.
There are several ways to keep track of plant growth in the rivers and broads. Hydro-acoustic surveying equipment is just one method used by the Broads Authority. This electronic equipment is set to detect the presence water plants growing beneath the surface of the water, as well as the depth of the sediment at the bed of the river or broad.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Plaqueless tolls - update

We have been monitoring toll income closely after the decision was made to trial plaqueless boat tolls and have now also developed the online toll checker.

Based on June end figures for private boats and assuming the same level of tollpayers as last season the forecast is that income from private boats will be up on the budget figure.

However income from the commercial fleet is currently dow and analysis of the private boat fleet will be undertaken shortly to ascertain any changes in vessel numbers by category.

We have increased the number of Super Safety Days while the Rangers, with members of staff from the Tolls Office, carried out an intensive survey of marinas and other adjacent waters checking on the payment of tolls and Boat Safety Certificates.

The on-line tool for checking whether a boat has a valid toll and this is here.

We would be grateful for those regularly on the water if they would test it out for us. The data is loaded from the live file every night so at most it is 24 hours out of date.