Tuesday, 12 April 2016

High court judge rules in support of using Broads National Park brand

By John Packman, Chief Executive

This morning Mr Justice Holgate handed down his judgment on the High Court judicial review into the decision by the Broads Authority in January 2015 to use the term “Broads National Park” when referring to the area as a brand name and for marketing related purposes.

I am really pleased that the Judge has supported the Authority’s decision to use the term Broads National Park in its marketing material, and rejected the judicial review in full.

The Court was asked to consider three grounds of challenge:

(i) the decision was ultra vires (i.e. the Authority did not have the power brand the Broads in this way);

(ii) the Authority had regard to an immaterial consideration, namely that the Habitats Regulations provided the required level of protection for the biodiversity of the Broads against damaging activities; and

(iii) the Authority’s decision was procedurally unfair because of the consultation process.

The claim was dismissed on all three grounds.

This is an important decision for the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk supporting the presence of the Broads in the East of England as the Broads National Park. The use of the term would be not just a welcome boost to the important tourism industry but also helpful to conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB in attracting visitors to their reserves and promoting understanding of the very special wildlife present in the Broads.

Liz Truss, our Secretary of State, has recently published an 8 point National Park Plan which has ambitions to connect young people to nature and using national parks to drive international growth in tourism. Today’s decision will help the Broads Authority deliver its contribution to the Plan.

The Claimants sought leave to appeal the decision and this has been refused. It is hoped this is the end of the matter. However, the Claimants do have 21 days in which to file an appellant’s notice seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal itself. That is entirely a matter for them. In the meantime, the judgment is binding and the Authority can use the term Broads National Park to market the area and encourage local companies and partners to do the same. I will keep you all updated on any further developments. The Broads Authority will continue to call itself as such and has stated that it does not intend to pursue any legal route to change the status of the area or adopt the Sandford Principle.

The Broads Authority has spent around £60,000 on external legal costs defending its decision. This has all been funded from National Park Grant. The time and money defending the Authority’s decision is regretted but in the face of such a challenge necessary and of course the benefits for the area are very significant.

For those who have followed the case or are interested in National Parks the judgment contains some fascinating insights:

  • Para 73: “The starting point must be that the National Park legislation has no legal monopoly over the use of the term “national park”, whether capitalised or not. It is a part of our ordinary language”.
  • Para 74: “However… Parliament itself made the assessment that the qualities of the Broads made it appropriate to impose a legal regime which included the same twin objectives as underpin the National Park code.”
  • Para 87: “No reasonable member of the public would see the use of the words “Broads National Park” in promotional literature as referring to the specific legal regimes governing either the Broads or National Parks in the UK.”
I am advised that the judgment provides no authority for the wider arguments such as London branding itself a national park. The most important part of the judgment in this respect is the reasoning as to why the Authority has not misled the public. This highlights that the key and only point of distinction relied on by the Claimants between the 1949 Parks Act and the Broads is the Sandford Principle, and the judge did not think that the Sandford Principle was integral to people’s understanding of what a national park was.

This has been a team effort. Our Minister, Rory Stewart, defended the Authority’s position in a Westminster Hall debate. We received the backing of all the national park authorities in the UK, all our constituent local authorities and the two Chief Constables. The Authority’s preparation of its case was assisted by David Coleman (ex-Defra and Countryside Commission) who provided expert advice and moral support us through the process. Our thanks also go to Mark Pendlington (Group Director of Anglian Water), Simon Altham (MD of Hoseasons), Julian Roughton (CEO of Suffolk Wildlife Trust), James Berresford (ex CEO of Visit England), Caroline Topping and Hugh Taylor (Mayors of Beccles) and Katie Lawrence (ex Chair of Broads Tourism).

Stephen Johnson and Jacquie Burgess, Chairs of the Broads Authority, played important roles in the drafting of the Consultation Document which was instrumental in the whole process, as did a wide variety of members of staff.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Authority corrects misleading information from Jenner's Basin campaign co-ordinator

The Broads Authority is disappointed to again be in a position of having to address incorrect and misleading information circulated by the co-ordinator of the Save the Island campaign.

Gary Barnes claims that an interim injunction gave permission for boats to stay at Jenner’s Basin and that in serving it the judge, Justice Nicol, directed both sides to resolve the issue by way of a planning application. In fact the purpose of the injunction is precisely that it’s an interim measure to stop any further unlawful development while the Authority seeks a permanent injunction, which was always part of the planned legal process in this dispute around lack of planning permission. Furthermore Justice Nicol categorically did not direct any parties in respect of a planning application as claimed by Mr Barnes, who was not present at the hearing. The injunction wording including Judge Nicol’s directions can be read here.

The dispute has nothing to do with social cleansing, it is quite simply that the landowner Roger Wood does not have planning permission and has so far not sought permission for the development of the site which is in a conservation area including the moorings that he lets out on a commercial basis. Despite several requests Mr Barnes has failed to produce any evidence that the Authority chairman described residential boaters as “feral” or witnesses to this being said. The Authority strenuously refutes this unpleasant accusation.

Another claim by Mr Barnes is that in 2013 Broads Authority officers directed Norwich City Council to issue trespass notices but only to residential boaters in certain areas of Thorpe Island. Mr Barnes alleges this demonstrates social cleansing.

In fact the decision to issue these trespass notices was made by Norwich City Council officers to protect council-owned assets, in this case the riverbed. Notices served on four newly arrived boats at Thorpe Island on the riverbank next to the bridge (two of which subsequently moved and only one was being lived on) were part of a wider distribution by the council which also included areas closer to the city centre including Cow Tower and at Norwich quayside.

Boats at Jenner’s Basin – the only area subject to the Broads Authority planning dispute, which includes some residential boats – were not issued with notices. This is because Norwich City Council does not own the land there. No notices were served on boats moored opposite Thorpe River Green. The fact that boats within Jenner’s Basin and at Thorpe River Green were not included is inconsistent with allegations that residential boats in certain areas were specifically targeted for reasons of social cleansing.

In a letter to Norwich City Councillors Mr Barnes also states that Mr Wood maintains he has the right to moor boats. But Mr Wood has taken the case to two Secretary of State planning inspectors, an appeal court judge and a high court judge who have all ruled he needs planning permission and that he does not have planning permission.

Mr Wood was not reassured by the Broads Authority that planning permission already existed when he investigated buying the site. Advice from the Broads Authority to Mr Wood’s advisor Bill Knight in an email exchange from January 2003 here was quite the opposite.

Save the Island campaigners are on record estimating that between four to six residential boats were and are in the basin and not the 41 which Mr Barnes claimed were served enforcement notices and that these could move to land Mr Wood also owns at the other end of Thorpe Island. It is not the case that houseboats have been moored in the basin since 1922 and aerial photographic records demonstrate the basin as largely empty before Mr Wood bought it with many of the homes opposite the basin preceding Mr Wood’s unlawful developments.

Lastly there is no evidence to suggest that the vast majority of the people of Thorpe St Andrew support the few residential boaters at Jenner’s Basin.

We would request that Mr Barnes desists with his untruthful smear campaign and anyone interested in the issue read the full facts.

You can read the full facts and background here.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Authority breaks dredging target

The Broads Authority has again broken its annual target for dredging, removing more than 50,000 cubic metres of sediment.

The total volume of sediment removed for 2015/16 was 51,435 cubic metres, which equates to a cost-effective £13 approximately a cubic metre for removal, re-handling and reuse.

It is also nearly 3% more than the target in context of a number of other successfully delivered projects.

Rob Rogers, Head of Construction, Maintenance and Environment, said: “This may not seem a massive quantity over the projected figure but we also carried out the priority dredging project for Hickling which, despite only involving small volumes, was a large scale operation.

"We also filled the Hill Common erosion areas, removed additional material from Catfield Dyke entrance and maintained a dredging crew on the middle Bure.

“The additional material was only able to be removed due to the efforts of the Construction, Maintenance and Environment teams, who worked well with Broads Environmental Services Ltd and landowners to secure agreements to re-use sediment for floodwall maintenance and restoration of grazing pasture.”

Mr Rogers said that it is often identifying appropriate sediment disposal sites that present the greatest challenge, rather than the dredging itself and appealed to any landowners who may think they have an appropriate site to contact the Broads Authority.