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‘A shambles’ - ‘Confused’ Broads boaters demand clarity over lockdown guidance

PUBLISHED: 17:30 14 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:18 14 November 2020

Hire boats moored at the Acle Bridge Inn as holidaymakers explore the Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hire boats moored at the Acle Bridge Inn as holidaymakers explore the Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Boaters who use the Norfolk Broads have called the second lockdown a “shambles” as they remain “completely confused” about which activities can and can’t go ahead.

Paul Rice, chairman of the Broads Society, said a lack of clarity over the use of private motor boats was causing “havoc” on Norfolk’s waterways.

“I went down to check Potter Heigham water levels this morning and there were plenty of motor boats out. Rangers probably won’t be approaching them because nobody knows if it’s actually banned”, he said.

In a statement posted to their website on November 10, the Broads Authority (BA) said it had “repeatedly sought guidance from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)” about how coronavirus restrictions apply to private boat owners - but that the department had not been forthcoming.

The statement said DEFRA had been clear that “exercise”, such as sailing, kayaking and paddle-boarding, can now go ahead providing social distancing is maintained.

Paul Rice (left) and George Elliot, of the Broads Society, said confusion over lockdown rules was causing havoc. Mr Elliot said the government needed to hurry up and issue Paul Rice (left) and George Elliot, of the Broads Society, said confusion over lockdown rules was causing havoc. Mr Elliot said the government needed to hurry up and issue "clear guidance" as they did in the last national lockdown. Photo: Laura Elliot, Broads Safety and Rescue

It had also been clear that boat owners could contract buisnesses to carry out maintainance on their behalf.

But the Broads Authority said “no specific advice has been provided regarding the use of private motor boat”.

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The statement on their website continued: “Our employees are doing their best to understand government guidance, but we will push for further clarity where there is ambiguity.”

Paddle boarding has been allowed to continue as one of the forms of water-related 'exercise' permitted by DEFRA. Photo: SubmittedPaddle boarding has been allowed to continue as one of the forms of water-related 'exercise' permitted by DEFRA. Photo: Submitted

In response, DEFRA said: “Across all sectors, it is the responsibility of individuals and organisations to digest and interpret the regulations to ensure they are acting within these.

“Non-essential travel is not permitted anywhere in England at this time, including on waterways.”

George Elliot, who runs Ludham Bridge Boat Yard, said the government’s stance “wasn’t fair” on boat yard owners or the Broads Authority, who are receiving a lot of abuse from “completely confused” boat owners.

“I’m really worried about it. The whole thing seems a shambles”, he said.

“I went out on Wednesday and there were about five motor boats just driving around on the Broads.

“I didn’t approach them, but I didn’t know whether to report them either.

“The government should have had clear guidance on this set out from day one.”

Mr Rice said: “The Broads Society fully supports the Broads Authority in demanding clarity from government on this before someone gets in trouble, or even worse - hurt.”


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