Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Broads Authority (IW 71)

THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS

1.  THE BROADS AUTHORITY

  The Broads Authority is a Special Statutory Authority, created by the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988. The Act places a duty on the Authority to manage the Broads for the purposes of:

    —  conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Broads;

    —  promoting the enjoyment of the Broads by the public; and

    —  protecting the interests of navigation.

  The Broads Act also sets down the need for the Broads Authority to have regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry, and the economic and social interests of those who live or work in the Broads.

  The Broads Act requires that the Broads Authority maintains a separate Navigation Account which is funded by levying tolls on commercial and pleasure craft using the Broads. The Navigation Account funds the management of the navigation—including dredging, clearance of wrecks, signing and marking of the waterways, maintaining the Authority's network of free 24-hour moorings, and, through the Authority's River Inspectors, ensuring safe, orderly use and practice.

  The Navigation Account is financed by tolls paid by users of the Broads waterways. The Broads is unique among the major inland navigation authorities in that its Navigation Account is not subsidised by central government.

2.  THE ROLE OF INLAND WATERWAYS

Urban and Rural Regeneration

  The relationship between social and economic well being of the Broads area and the waterways is inextricably linked. The decline of the hire-boat industry has implications throughout the whole economy.

  The re-use of derelict or vacant waterside sites is an issue arising in more isolated rural areas where the option for property development either lacks viability or would be environmentally inappropriate. Development which no longer relies on its waterside location is a lost opportunity to the local economy.

  Leisure and tourism development offers opportunities to place the waterways at the heart of a regeneration strategy.

Leisure, Recreation, Tourism and the Industrial Heritage

  The Broads Authority welcomes Government's recognition of the value of the waterways as an important national tourism resource. However, the holiday hire-boat industry is in decline in the Broads area, as elsewhere.

  The hire boat industry is a very important part of the economy of the Broads area and of the region's tourist industry. It provides local employment and plays a key role in enabling visitors to experience and enjoy the Broads. The industry has been contracting over a long period and appears likely to continue to do so. There is considerable concern about the industry's future prospects. The Broads Authority is co-ordinating a study to take stock of the current position and identify the problems and opportunities facing the industry.

  The major part of the Broads study will be to consider an appropriate strategy and vision for the industry's future and identify key actions and changes which should be pursued to secure a thriving industry in the future. The study will provide guidance to the industry and will also inform organisations formulating strategies and policies affecting the industry. The study will provide useful guidance, which is applicable in a wider context, by focusing on appropriate strategies for rural tourism industries which operate in sensitive areas and are seeking to adjust to wider structural changes.

  The study raises issues which are of relevance to all waterways: how objectives for sustainable, water-based tourism, an awareness both of the importance and sensitivity of the Broads environment and the need for a commercially viable industry can be achieved.

The environment and the enhancement of wildlife

  Waterways are a nature conservation asset in their own right and have been recognised as such in the Broads through national and international designations. Waterways for Tomorrow and the policy measures should recognise the waterways as an ecological system.

  The environmental quality of the waterways enhances visitor experience of the Broads resulting in a challenge for appropriate management. Furthermore, successful management for nature conservation has resulted in conflicting objectives for the implementation of navigation responsibilities and responsibilities for internationally important wildlife species. The Broads Authority is pioneering a participatory process for resolution between interested parties. The objectives of English Nature and the Wildlife Trusts should also be included in the examination of the future of the waterways.

  Water quality is a key issue. Direct and indirect sources of pollution should be of concern to the Committee.

  A river corridor strategy is being prepared by a consortium of organisations centred on the city of Norwich. This is resulting in a co-ordinated approach to the development and management of the landscape, historic environment, visitor services and access. It recognises the role of the waterways in linking the urban and rural environment.

Water transfer, drainage and telecommunications

  The Broads Authority's submission on water transfers reflects the Authority's views on the potential effects in relation to the Broads' hydrological system. Since the formation of the Broads Authority, it has directed resources and efforts in partnership with the Environment Agency, water companies and landowners towards improving water quality in the Broads system. This has included the reduction of nutrients, notably phosphorus levels, and has had a direct and beneficial effect on wildlife. Should water transfer be considered in the future, the transferred water should be of equally high quality as that in the area to receive it and free from potentially invasive species.

  The Broads Authority is concerned that the section on water transfers puts too much emphasis on using the waterways system for this purpose. Both DETR and the EA have a role to play in the promotion of wise and efficient usage of water by both the public and private sector as the main mechanism by which water resources are protected for the future. The Broads Authority, in its response to the Environment Agency's consultation on Sustainable Water Futures has already indicated that water transfers should only be used as a very last resort for drinking water supplies, and their promotion for other purposes would certainly not be advocated.

  If, in the very last resort, water transfer is required it should ONLY be of pretreated water through pipelines and not transfer of raw water from one catchment to another or one canal or waterway to another due to potential environmental risks. The waterways in the Broads must be treated as an integrated ecological system.

3.  COMMERCIAL FREIGHT

  The last cargo vessel to trade into Norwich from Yarmouth and the North Sea moored at a city quay in 1989. Now the only regular seagoing cargo trade is fuel oil for Cantley sugar factory. As the Port of Norwich has declined, so the recreational use of the River Yare has grown, changing the character of the river and of the waterside in Norwich. The passage of cargo vessels ensured the maintenance of a depth of water. The costs of dredging must now be born by recreational users.

  It has not proved possible to safeguard wharves from redevelopment in the expectation that freight might increase in the future. It would therefore be difficult to reinstate commercial traffic. Potential new markets could be sea dredged aggregates to the city, or the export of sugar and by-products. Overall there is limited scope and there would be little impact on the movement of freight through the Broads.

4.  PRIORITIES

  The Broads Authority advocates the future management of the country's waterways system as a multifunctional resource. In some areas there may be scope for identifying priorities through the Local Plan eg where there could be greater use by commercial freight or in others areas ecological, cultural, heritage or recreational assets may have priority.

5.  POLICIES, MECHANISMS AND FUNDING

  The Waterways for Tomorrow publication combines detailed consideration for heritage, the natural environment and education. The Authority believes this does not adequately recognise each of these aspects and indeed undervalues and underestimates the role of waterways as an ecological system. Consequently the recommendations do not address the key issues of each of these topics.

  Measures towards improvements for more environmentally sustainable boating should be more practicable and realistic for the short—medium term for example through controls on the use of chemicals, more efficient engines, improved fuel. Improved hull design for low wash, the development of engines or other forms of propulsion capable of dealing with weedy conditions and the use of solar power are longer term proposals which will require investment incentives. Greater use of electric boats will also require investment, for infrastructure for recharging points, throughout the waterway system.

  In order to achieve tourism development there needs to be a co-ordinated approach to marketing and promotion. It appears that this is a function for which few waterways organisations have a remit. Economic regeneration depends on effective marketing, business advice, and investment strategies.

  In the experience of the Broads Authority, a specific PPG on inland waterways is not felt to be a priority. Sufficient guidance is provided through the statutory remit for the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The Local Plan for the Broads executive area is the appropriate mechanism to guide development and the statutory management plan, the Broads Plan, provides policy guidance. It is felt that Local Plans are the planning mechanism which will allow for regional differences in the character of waterways and priorities to be realised. Good practice guides are to be welcomed and it is hoped that these could have an international dimension.

  The role of Local Transport Plans in helping to deliver a national strategy should be considered. Norfolk and Suffolk Counties have prepared a Broads-specific insert as part of their bid for Government funding this year.

  The reduction in commercial traffic and the decline in the hire boat industry will have serious implications on the long term sustainability of the network. The Broads navigation is funded directly by users. The burden is falling increasingly on private boat owners. For a significant proportion of boat owners the toll is a major item of expenditure and large increases could price them out of the market. The Broads Authority would view this restriction on access to the Broads with great concern. In order to meet wider objectives of social inclusion and access opportunities this illustrates the importance of structural investment in the boating industry in preference to subsidies for maintenance.

6.  STRUCTURES, OWNERSHIP, ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  The Broads system is not linked to the rest of the national network. This has resulted in a distinctive history, traditions, culture and pattern of boating activity. Whereas there may be operational advantages in standardising management on contiguous waterways such as simplifying tolls and licences, this approach is not of relevance in the Broads. It is important to note that the management of navigation is locally accountable. This principle is enshrined in the Broads Act and ensures that those most affected are making the decisions.

  The Authority has welcomed the integration of the two Government Departments responsible for navigation. Because the Broads system is tidal it is overseen by the Transport Department's Ports Division whereas British Waterways and the Environment Agency are covered by Environment. The Authority believes the current arrangements adequately recognise the legal and operating differences of the Broads system whilst bringing all authorities under one umbrella.

Gillian Morgan

Chief Planning Officer


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 5 April 2001