Broads National Park – a tourism boost or a pointless rebrand?

Members at the Broads Authority will vote on a rebrand to Broads National Park tomorrow. Picture: AN

Members at the Broads Authority will vote on a rebrand to Broads National Park tomorrow. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It is an issue which divides businesses, boat owners and politicians – should Norfolk and Suffolk Broads be called the Broads National Park?

Q+A with the Broads Authority over Broads rebrand

The chief executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman, has long held ambitions to rebrand the area in a bid to lure more visitors.

Members of the Broads Authority will make the decision tomorrow morning – a change which could take hold with immediate effect.

Yet if members do agree, it would remain a marketing exercise alone.

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The government, despite objecting to the switch on legal grounds in 2008 and 2009, have now climbed down leaving the decision with the authority and its stakeholders.

Defra minister Lord de Mauley emphasised while the area is a member of the national park family, which includes the Lake District, the Peak District and the New Forest, he said 'it is not legally a national park'.

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The authority itself have said both its name and functions would remain the same and access to the water would not change.

But still there is suspicion, especially in the navigation community, about the plans.

If they approve the recommendation to adopt the term, members will also decide whether to resolve not to pursue the ambition in the Broads Plan for the area to become a national park in law.

Some worry if the name is ever enshrined in law, and the authority is therefore forced to adopt the Sandford Principle which says conservation is the priority, then navigation issues will be left vulnerable.

The Broads' constitution states that equal weight must be given to the three interests of conservation, recreation and navigation.

Richard Card, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, said the organisation strongly opposes the status change.

He said: 'The initial impression is that there would appear to be little advantage for private boaters in adopting the term Broads National Park.'

And the navigation committee said they 'continue to have reservations about the legality and reputational implications' of adopting the Broads National Park name.

Some question how an authority could call themselves something they are not while others have revealed fears that even if there is no prospect of a legal challenge now, there may be one in the future.

The idea of change has, however, received wide support from district, city and county councils as well as organisations such as the Norfolk and Suffolk Wildlife Trusts.

About 79pc of these groups questioned supported the change, while results in the stakeholders survey showed groups such as private boat owners were less in favour of the switch.

The meeting is at the Broads Authority's office on Thorpe Road at 10am.

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