Broads campaigner takes plea to top

STEPHEN PULLINGER The organiser of an online petition criticising the Broads Authority's maintenance of the waterways plans to lead a delegation to Westminster in February to hand it over to Defra minister Barry Gardiner.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The organiser of an online petition criticising the Broads Authority's maintenance of the waterways plans to lead a delegation to Westminster in February to hand it over to Defra minister Barry Gardiner.

The petition, which has so far attracted around 1,450 signatures, makes a direct appeal to the minister, warning that “without major corrective action the Norfolk Broads will be lost within a generation”.

It accuses the Broads Authority of “failing to adequately maintain and dredge these waterways despite its statutory duties”.

Petition author Jamie Campbell, vice-chairman of the Broads Tourism Forum, said last night that he was not in the least surprised that it had been signed by a number of boatyard owners, boat builders and hire fleet operators.

“A considerable number of Broads users agree with the sentiments of the petition and I believe we could even exceed 2,000 signatures by the time we come to present the petition. The Broads Authority has simply failed to integrate with the boating community. They just never joined in,” he said.

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He said he had emailed the minister to determine when they could meet him or one of his senior civil servants in February to present the petition.

Mr Campbell, who has also lodged a formal complaint to the Ombudsman over the Broads Authority's record on dredging, said the practical evidence of boats running aground showed the scale of the problems.

He said: “I own a 35ft sailing cruiser, Evening Flight, built by Herbert Woods in 1939. Twenty years ago I could sail her all around the Broads, but because the Broads Authority has neglected its public duty there are now huge areas I can't sail on.

“Oulton Broad is a complete no-no for big cruisers and any notion of going beyond Potter Heigham bridge would be a silly idea.”

Mr Campbell, who has lavished thousands of pounds and hours on restoring his boat, is sceptical about published research from Cranfield University that concludes that more sediment is being removed from the Broads system than is coming. “We are not going aground on imagination,” he said.

Prominent petition signatories include Robin Richardson, of Potter Heigham Boatyard, Mike Barnes, of Norfolk Broads Yachting Company, in Horning, and Colin Facey, who also runs a boatyard in Horning.

Mr Facey has been chairman of the Three Rivers Race Committee for 46 years but says it is now under threat because of inadequate dredging.

Other signatories include Gerard Stamp, the immediate past president of the Broads Society, who calls for “less needless expense on unsuitable and impractical access such as boardwalks”.

The Broads Authority has consistently defended its record on dredging saying it is planning to spend a record £750,000 on it during the coming financial year.

Its spokesman said that despite the escalating cost of sediment disposal it has dredged 29pc more silt out of the system during the five years from 2002-2006 than in the five years preceding its management.

Blob. To access the petition visit www.petitiononline.com/nbroads/petition.html