Thousands of pounds spent in five-year row over barge toll on Norfolk Broads
- Credit: Archant
The Broads Authority has spent tens of thousands of pounds on legal fees fighting a five-year battle with a retired teacher over tolls.
Alan Fry, pictured right, has been disputing the authority's attempt to charge him hundreds of pounds a year in tolls since 2012 for living on his boat on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. The case has gone before the lowest and highest courts in the country, but still continues.
Mr Fry, 66, said he had not spent a penny on legal fees, as he was teaching and representing himself at every legal turn.
The Broads Authority has hired a QC and as of last year had spent at least £30,000 on the case. It justified the spend by saying it could not allow Mr Fry to set a precedent by not paying tolls on his boat.
The teacher owns a barge called the Adjo which he lives on with his wife at the Waveney River Centre.
In 2012 the Broads Authority billed Mr Fry a toll of around £500 for his boat.
But because he does not use the Broads waters - he is moored in private waters permanently - he refused to pay.
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The authority is allowed to charge a toll on boats outside of the Broads waters in what are called 'adjacent waters' but the charge must be 'reasonable', according to the Harbours Act.
Mr Fry disputed the authority charging him the same toll as a vessel moored and using the main river as he already pays council tax and pays the owner of his marina, James Knight to upkeep it.
He was found guilty at Lowestoft Magistrates' Court in March 2012 and again in 2015 for not paying tolls.
But he appealed the conviction to Ipswich Crown Court who overturned the magistrate's decision.
The Broads Authority then appealed against that decision and both parties ended up in the High Court of Justice in London in November 2015.
Judges allowed the authority's appeal and the case was sent back to Crown Court to decide whether the full toll was a reasonable charge. Judges said it was. And Mr Fry is now being prosecuted for not paying tolls. He is appearing before magistrates at the end of September.
In 2013/14 the authority said Mr Fry paid the toll but he had not paid since.
A spokesman for the authority said the toll was a 'statutory charge' which had to be paid to 'comply with the law'.
They said: 'Any failure by the authority to contest the appeals by the owner would have, by that default, permitted an unmeritorious legal argument to set a precedent affecting the authority's ability to carry out its function of collection tolls.'