The Broads Authority, like many public authorities, is working hard to react to the terrible crisis facing the world at the moment, but has some unique challenges to overcome.
It has prioritised 3 main activities:
- Keeping people on the water safe
- Proactively supporting the tourism economy
- Protecting the Broads and its waterways for the future
John Packman, Chief Executive commented:
“Coronavirus has made us all take stock of what is truly important and I am in awe of all the exceptional NHS staff, emergency services and all those dedicating their time to help those in most need.
“The work of the Broads Authority is nowhere near as critical however we have prioritised some important aspects of our work as there are potentially some huge impacts and very real threats for the Broads.
“Firstly, we have taken steps to ensure the safety of boaters that are still on the water. Everyone must follow Government instructions to stay at home, however, some people have no choice but to be on their boat as it is their only home. Our rangers are still out there, keeping those that are on the water safe”
Broads Control, which monitors the waterways and helps coordinate responses to emergencies, will still operate. Great Yarmouth Yacht Station and Reedham Quay will be staffed from this weekend in the interests of public safety because mooring at these locations can be very challenging at times. The Norwich Yacht Station will remain closed.
The ‘live aboard’ community includes vulnerable people who may need help. The Authority has compiled a list of businesses that are still able to offer vital services here.
“Secondly, is the need to keep the area in good shape, ready for when we are all able to return and enjoy them again.
“The hire boat industry faces a huge threat and we have grave concerns for it, along with the wider tourism economy which is so vital for the area supporting over 7,000 jobs. Hire boat companies have lost their main income stream. This has impacts for the Broads as a whole and the Broads Authority is fighting as best it can to continue maintaining the Broads so the area is in a good place when all of this has passed. “Our staff are still out there dredging and maintaining moorings and will continue to do so until the Government advises otherwise.
“Everything we do to maintain navigation of the 125 miles of waterways is supported by tolls. If that income dries up we have a massive problem. Our financial mechanism means that we are not allowed to divert our Defra funding to support Navigation. Of the £3.5m or so we get from tolls, around a third of this is from the hire boat industry.
To try and help hire boat companies The Authority has been proactive in drawing to the companies attention a clause in its legislation specifically designed for boatyards stating that where hire boats are not being used and are effectively in storage they are not subject to a toll.
“In doing so we could have created a potential funding gap for ourselves and I have written to the Secretary of State for the Environment (along with the CEOs of British Marine and the Canals and Rivers Trust who face similar issues) raising this very point and asking for urgent financial support.”
The same rule cannot apply to private boaters that have a vessel on the water. These have to be tolled and this has resulted in some calls for discounts or a ‘toll holiday’, although the vast majority are continuing to pay for their tolls. The Authority will be sympathetic to individual circumstances such as extreme financial hardship.
“If we were to offer all private boat owners reduced tolls it would jeopardise our ability to maintain the waterways, keeping them safe, useable and attractive to visitors.
“Boaters have also asked about Boat Safety Certificates (The equivalent of a vehicle MOT) that have lapsed. We are awaiting clarification from the Boat Safety Scheme but again we will be mindful of the circumstances we all find ourselves in and take a sensible approach.
“Whilst we all long to seek refuge and relaxation in the Broads and enjoy our unique National Park again, now is not the time. There are much more pressing issues facing many people and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and patience during this difficult time.”
Greg Munford, Chief Executive, Richardsons Leisure Ltd said:
“Last week we closed our entire hire fleet business, both for day boats and holiday cruisers. During these tough times, as always we appreciate the support of the Broads Authority and the work they do to maintain these beautiful waterways and moorings, so that the Broads continues to be a well-kept, wonderful place to be for when guests return to both us and other operators in the area. Bringing a much-needed boost to the local economy.”
The Broads Authority
The Broads Authority has the important job of looking after the Broads and the interests of the people who live, work and visit there. The Broads Authority has two purposes identical to the other national park family members relating to conservation and promoting people’s understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area. It also has a third purpose to look after the waterways for navigation. In addition, it is a planning authority and has a duty to foster the economic and social well-being of its communities.