Friday, 27 February 2015

Norfolk Broads - not a National Park?

"The Norfolk & Suffolk Broads in East Anglia, UK are not in the strictest sense a National Park, being run by a separately constituted Broads Authority set up by a special Act of Parliament in 1988 and with a structure in which equal weight must be given to the three interests of conservation, recreation and navigation, but it is generally regarded as being "equivalent to" a national park. It is felt that the move towards the re-branding to “Broads National Park” is the first step towards obtaining full National Park status where the danger is that National Parks are legally obliged to give greater weight to the interests of conservation if there is a conflict with leisure activity (Sandford Principle)."  

The Broads are already a member of the National Parks family but they are so much more than a normal National Park because of the navigation element.

The first paragraph is the description on a Facebook page, which I help to administer, which is aimed at gathering support to object to the re-branding of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads (known familiarly as the Norfolk Broads) to the "Broads National Park" (known familiarly as BNP!).

The Broads Authority, according to its website "have the important job of looking after the Broads and the interests of the people who live, work and visit here." and additionally "it is a planning authority and has a duty to foster the economic and social well-being of its communities."

Fair enough, but the CEO (whose primary interest is conservation) has had a long term ambition, which has been stated in the Broads Plan 2011 to achieve full national park status by 2030, where "the Broads would be a national park where the public legal rights of navigation continued to be respected and embraced. Though this objective would require primary legislation, members considered this an important ambition in support of the long-term vision."  Not being satisfied with being a "member of the family" the CEO's aim is to make the Broads a full National Park.

He has agreed to give up this ambition in return for being allowed to call the Broads by the name of Broads National Park (BNP) but there will be a new Broads Plan in a year or so where it is anticipated that the ambition will be re-instated as "we've been the BNP for .... years, with no problems, so we're now going to go for full status."  This is why we must all object NOW.

One of the problems is that the members of the Broads Authority quango who voted, are mostly recommended for appointment by the Secretary of State by the CEO himself, so he makes sure that anyone who he recommends is also a supporter of his ambitions or someone who can be easily convinced! 

There are many issues around the Broads Authority CEO and his long term plans but the feeling is that this re-branding, which follows a previous re-branding to "Britain's Magical Waterland" only four years ago is the first step to a back door entry to becoming a full National Park with all the associated dangers to navigation. Certain areas above Potter Heigham bridge would almost certainly be closed to boats and possibly other currently navigable areas as well, as the Broads Authority would then have the power to do this.

Another of the major concerns is the amount of money being wasted by the Broads Authority on using outside consultants to carry out surveys and consultations on the re-branding at a cost of nearly £50k which has to be provided out of the Authority's income which comes from toll-payers (private boaters and hire boat companies - almost 50% of income) and a National Park grant of the remainder.  

This money should be used to maintain the Broads for the enjoyment of all users but is being frittered away on personal objectives, whilst moorings are being closed, boardwalks are being given up, rubbish collections are being stopped and public toilets are being closed.  Whilst not all the responsibility of the Broads Authority, pressure should be put on local councils by them to ensure that these facilities are maintained.  If the Broads are to survive as a magical place to be visited and enjoyed by everyone then the facilities must be in place.

With the help of many friends, I am fronting a petition to try and get enough signatures to confront potential MP's in the forthcoming election on the various subjects which need addressing within the Broads Authority.  It would be great if you felt able to sign it.

Facebook page:
Protect the Broads

ePetition Broad Agreement 

Broads Authority:
BA website 

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