Monday, 30 June 2014

Successful Annual Public Meeting draws dozens

Dozens of people interested in the work of the Broads Authority gathered for an interactive annual public meeting on Saturday 28 June to find out information, ask questions and air views.

The meeting, on the Authority’s silver anniversary, was the second APM at the Dockyard in Thorpe. Staff and members were on hand with stands and displays to talk about their work from conservation, practical work and ranger services to tourism and recreation, education, planning matters and adapting to climate change.

A presentation by Chief Executive Dr John Packman talked about the Authority's work over the past 25 years to improve and protect the Broads - the results of which include better water quality, free moorings and the return of rare wildlife - as well as its future priorities and achievements over the past year.

Questions were asked about mooring provision, the make up of the committee structure and heritage boat tolls.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Half way through the year...

By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

Several incidents have occurred over the last week.

Rangers assisted a school visit of children from London. Activities included bug hunting ,countryside activities, and information regarding an eel set.

The Breydon crew also helped put out a fire on the bank near the pump house on the south side of Breydon. They supported the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service by attending by river with water packs as vehicle access to the site was not possible.

The Breydon launch was also called to a vessel that had broken down and was tied to a post. The vessel had actually run aground and was later towed off by the hire craft towboat service.

A hire vessel trying to moor collided with the moored Reedham Ferry resulting in a crew member of the hire boat sustaining a broken arm. Three day boats were set adrift in Wroxham.

A joint patrol took place with the EA fisheries enforcement officer on our vessel on the Upper Thurne. This was also joined by Broads Beat Police on their new boat.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Broads Authority Chief Executive chairs European sediment conference

Broads Authority Chief Executive Dr John Packman chaired a European conference to finalise the landmark Prisma project.

Prisma - Promoting Integrated Sediment Management - brought together the Broads Authority and three other European partners to improve dredging techniques, find innovative ways of treating dredged sediment and improve and promote its reuse.

It has resulted in awards for the Broads Authority's innovative work to use dredged sediment to restore lost reedbeds at Duck Broad and Salhouse Spit, benefiting multiple users.
Dr John Packman (far left) chairs the Prisma conference with Trudi Wakelin, Director of Operations sitting left

The Authority received 800,000 Euros from the Interreg 2 Seas Programme to work with waterway infrastructure manager Waterwegen en Zeekanaal in Belgium, the Dutch water board Hoogheemraadschap voor Schieland en de Krimpenerwaard and the French research association Armines.

The final conference took place on Wednesday 18 June in Antwerp, Belgium. 

For more information on the project visit the Prisma page on the Broads Authority website.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Rivers bustling but few incidents - Rangers update

By Adrian Vernon - Head of Ranger Services

While the waterways were busy with holidaymakers there were relatively few incidents to deal with.

Training for new and existing staff has continued this week. Two new staff were signed off following a rigorous training day involving a diverse range of ranger activities.

Staff were also being retrained to keep their oil spill response qualification current.

The night of the England football match was quiet with people mooring up earlier to get a good seat in the pubs.

On Saturday a Super Safety Day was held at two locations on the River Bure. Of the 75 boats that went past only five needed to be stopped. One man said he was very impressed by the fact that he had been alerted to the need for a toll twice that day since buying his new boat.

An investigation has started regarding speeding in the evenings between Acle Bridge and Thurne Mouth. Two jet ski skippers were stopped for navigating on Breydon Water while several boat skippers were given warnings for overstaying on moorings.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Owl you need is love!

Erica Murray with two baby barn owls found in one of the nesting boxes
Baby barn owls are getting all the love they need to thrive thanks to a scheme to protect this special species.

The Broads Barn Owl Project aims to conserve and increase local barn owl and kestrel numbers in the area.

The Broads Authority, in partnership with the Hawk & Owl Trust has provided fifty barn owl and kestrel nest boxes to landowners with suitable rough grassland areas.

And the project has recently benefited from the Love the Broads visitor giving scheme, which has funded the purchase of seventeen more barn owl nesting boxes.

BA Ecologist Erica Murray who went out this week to check the boxes found them all full as breeding booms.

The project is important because many traditional barn owl roosting and nesting sites in farm buildings and old trees have been lost over the years due to barn conversions and tree disease.

This combined with a loss of prey rich rough grassland hunting habitat has resulted in a decline in barn owl numbers.

The project also aims to provide landowners with advice on how to manage their grassland to support healthy numbers of voles and mice, the favourite prey of barn owl and kestrel.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rangers week sees Breydon rescues and trial of new radar guns

By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

The rangers are trialling a radar gun for the next two weeks, which was featured the EDP earlier in the year.

On Saturday last week the Breydon crew rescued to a large hire cruiser that was blocking the river just below the Bure bridges. The hire crew said the steering was faulty and the tide was running hard.

The Breydon crew took the vessel under tow and eventually took them to Berney Arms moorings for the vessel to be checked out.

On the Sunday the Breydon launch stopped a cruiser towing two vessels one of which looked unseaworthy and was in danger of turning over and sinking. The people towing the vessel were unclear about the ownership and the vessel was treated as abandoned and was secured at Reedham quay.

And two vessels became stuck on the mud on the Breydon mud on Sunday evening, one was towed off immediately and the other was assisted off early the next morning by the Breydon towing service.
It was later taken to our dockyard for safe keeping until the owner can be traced.

One hire boat struck a private moored and unattended vessel and left without stopping in the Horning area. When a neighbour shouted for the crew to stop they pointed what later turned out to be a plastic water pistol. Police had already been called and dealt with the incident.

The rangers have been busy taking statements regarding incidents of speeding mainly in the lower and middle Bure area.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Historic Broads lock back in action

The new system at Mutford Lock is tested
Mutford Lock, which enables thousands of boats to pass between the Broads and the North Sea each year, is operating again after the replacement of control systems which were irreparably damaged by the December floods.

The Broads Authority has overseen £80,000 worth of repairs to the Victorian lock which have been funded from emergency flood funds allocated to the National Parks by Defra.

A new hydraulic and electrical system which will be less vulnerable to future flooding has been specially designed and installed by local contractor LEC Marine (Klyne) Ltd, to suit the layout and appearance of the lock.

The tidal surge damaged the hydraulic control and lock gate winding mechanisms and increased the build-up of sediment and debris behind the gates.

While components were being manufactured divers and mechanical contractors were brought in to clear the lock gates, cills and sluices of debris, remove and replace a cable duct and repair winding mechanisms.

Tom Hunter, Broads Authority engineer, said: “The time taken to fabricate and install a well-designed system to withstand future flooding was essential to provide good long term value and minimise future costs and down time.

“The old system has been troublesome for several years. Some of the parts were obsolete and not designed for easy maintenance.

“The maintenance of this important structure is expensive and we were extremely pleased that the bid to Defra for funding this damage by the flood was successful and met the full cost of the repair.”

John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, said: “I am delighted that this important gateway to the Broads is fully operational again for the thousands of boats which go through it every year.

“The repair and upkeep of the lock is not only good news for boat users but is also a boost for the local businesses which benefit from their passage.

“The Broads Authority appreciates the patience of boaters awaiting the repairs and I particularly want to thank the staff at Oulton Broad Yacht Station and Holman Marine who have operated the lock manually while the system has been out of action.”

When allocating the money from the flood fund Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said: “The Broads are the jewel in the crown of our precious natural environment – this investment will ensure they remain so. Given each pound spent by National Parks on recreation provides £4 of wider benefit, it is essential to get our Parks back to the highest standards ahead of the busy tourism period.”

Boaters wishing to use the lock should book in advance with Oulton Broad Yacht Station on 01502 574946 or VHF channel 73.

Broads Authority reaction to Queen's speech

By John Packman, Chief Executive

In the Queen’s Speech today the Government announced plans to introduce a Governance of National Parks and the Broads Bill. This would allow direct elections to be held for key positions in England's ten National Park Authorities and the Broads Authority.

The Government has been reviewing the governance of national park authorities since 2010 and the issue of direct elections has been debated as part of that. In seems unlikely that any trial elections would take place for at least another three years, assuming all the necessary legislation has gone through. The New Forest and Peak District have been identified for a potential trial of such elections and our understanding is that it would be only after the performance and cost of those elections had been evaluated that other national parks, including the Broads, would be considered

There are already various measures in place already to provide local accountability in our current board structure including members appointed by the two district councils and six district councils and various ways in which we engage the public, through our parish forums, online comment forms and social media as well as public meetings.

Even so the Broads Authority has supported the principle of direct elections when it was consulted by the Government. One of the questions that was raised was the nature of the electorate because, if the boundary of the Broads Executive Area was used, then less than 6,000 people would be eligible to vote and yet there are many more who live in and around the Broads who take a close interest in the work of the Authority and might feel they deserved to take part in any election.

We look forward to finding out more detail as to what the Government intends in due course.