Memorandum by The Broads Authority (IW
THE POTENTIAL OF INLAND WATERWAYS
1. THE BROADS
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 navigationincluding
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Measures towards improvements for more environmentally
sustainable boating should be more practicable and realistic for
the shortmedium 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
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.
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
Chief Planning Officer