The Broads Authority is to change its policy on how it uses its funding in the latest twist in an ongoing row over how the waterways are run.

A new principle has been adopted which enables more money to be spent on keeping the rivers and Broads maintained for boating - which is a growing financial burden for the organisation.

It follows increasing scrutiny over how the BA uses income raised through toll fees charged to boat users.

The money is supposed to be ringfenced for navigation purposes - maintenance work to allow boats to use the rivers safely.

However, critics have accused the BA of using the funds for other projects - allegations the authority has strenuously denied.

The two sides in this ongoing debate have been dubbed the 'navvies' - those more concerned with representing the interests of boaters and navigation - and 'parkies', who focus primarily on the BA's national park duties.

Eastern Daily Press: Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman on board the Electric Eel at Turf Fen windmill, How HillChief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman on board the Electric Eel at Turf Fen windmill, How Hill (Image: Newsquest)

The new guidelines have been hailed as a victory for the navvies.

Under the ruling, money obtained through grants to fulfil the BA's national park duties - such as work to boost biodiversity and protect wildlife - can now be used to support navigation, if it can be argued there is a co-benefit.

The move means the costs of things like dredging and ranger vessels could be covered through these funds.

Dr John Packman, chief executive of the BA, said at a meeting on Friday that as the use of the waterways is primarily for recreation, this falls into its national park remit as it "promotes opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the Broads by the public".

READ MORE: Broads Authority refuses to deliver 10,000 leaflets in 'petty' row with boaters

Eastern Daily Press: Sailing on the River Thurne on a very warm but breezy afternoon in early JulySailing on the River Thurne on a very warm but breezy afternoon in early July (Image: Newsquest)

This will allow a portion of the £500,000 of funding in capital grants expected to be received this year to be used to support boating in the Broads.

There was concern among some members that this new principle could leave the BA at risk of legal action if it was found to be misusing national park money.

It led to calls for legal experts to be brought in.

However, Dr Packman is confident that following conversations with the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), they would not encounter any legal issues through this new policy.

Members voted unanimously to adopt the new approach to the use of national park funds.

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Eastern Daily Press: The view from Thurne Mill on the Norfolk BroadsThe view from Thurne Mill on the Norfolk Broads (Image: Newsquest)



The Broads Authority is facing increasing financial pressures on its navigation budget, which is sourced through toll fees.

It has blamed rising costs for maintaining waterways on factors related to climate change, such as increased plant growth clogging up channels.

This has resulted in toll fees going up year on year to unsustainable levels.

READ MORE: Broads Authority says 'no conspiracy' over toll fee increases

These huge hikes in toll fees have led to boat hire firms lodging an official complaint with the government. 

The verdict is expected later this year.

The hikes prompted the accusations that the BA is funding its national park duties through toll income. 

Eastern Daily Press: Broads Authority offices at Yare HouseBroads Authority offices at Yare House (Image: George Thompson, LDR)

However, this was dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" by chairman Bill Dickson. 

Earlier this year members voted to call on Defra to offer further funding support for navigational costs. 

This new policy adopted this week offers a more immediate solution that could alleviate the issue of navigational costs, while it awaits a response from Defra.