Five Norfolk MPs have waded in to a row over boat tolls, telling the Broads Authority its hikes in fees are “exorbitant”.

The MPs have written an open letter urging the organisation to "urgently" reconsider its recent decision to impose a substantial increase in fees for the second year running. 

Last week members of the authority voted for a rise of 8.5pc in tolls. It follows a 13pc increase last year and means boaters will face what will effectively be a 22.6pc rise in two years.

It means the fee for a large hire boat will have risen from £1,628.64 to £1,996.80 in that period, creating significant additional costs for yards who reported a significant downturn in trade this summer.

The decision has prompted anger from the hire firms and other businesses - as well as private boat owners - with fears it could have a devastating impact on the waterways' tourism industry and force many people to give up their boats. 

Eastern Daily Press: Duncan Baker has spearheaded a letter calling for the Broads Authority to reconsider next year's toll increasesDuncan Baker has spearheaded a letter calling for the Broads Authority to reconsider next year's toll increases (Image: Archant)

The open letter has been co-ordinated by North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker. It has also been signed by fellow Conservatives Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk; Sir Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth; Jerome Mayhew, Broadland and Chloe Smith, Norwich North.

All five have parts of the Broads within their constituencies.

Their letter, addressed to Broads Authority (BA) chief executive John Packman, questioned what steps his organisation had taken to prevent the need for the increases.

It said: “When the Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting that headline inflation will fall to 2.8pc by the end of 2024, before falling to 2pc in 2025, this increase is exorbitant when many toll payers are facing real challenges.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk Dinghies racing on Oulton BroadNorfolk Dinghies racing on Oulton Broad (Image: Submitted)

“At the point that this new toll comes in, it is likely that this 8.5pc increase will be at least double the rate of inflation. 

“In many local councils, tax cannot be raised above 4.99pc without a referendum. The Broads Authority should adopt the spirit of this approach when considering toll rises above that level.” 

They accuse the authority of abusing the privilege of having a unique governance structure that means the members are not elected, either being appointed by a government minister or local council. 

Eastern Daily Press: Sailing cruisers on Hickling BroadSailing cruisers on Hickling Broad (Image: Supplied)

“We are very concerned that this privilege is being abused by repeated decisions to increase tolls above inflation on a body of payers who have no recourse other than to sell their boats or close their businesses,” they added.

A BA spokeswoman said: "The authority has received Duncan Baker’s correspondence regarding tolls increases and will respond to his office directly in due course.” 



The toll rises come as the government announces plans to create a new National Park in the country.

This prospect has alarmed many on the waterways, who fear it could mean that the already limited budget for the Broads and other existing National Parks - which has remained largely static for years - is spread even thinner.

A BA spokeswoman said: “It is disappointing that the National Park Authorities continue to face no increase in the National Park grant settlement, creating significant ongoing challenges to caring for these special landscapes.

"We look forward to learning more about any potential funding streams but at present there is no indication of funding available for the Broads."