Broads national park plan abandoned

PUBLISHED: 11:12 21 September 2006 | UPDATED: 11:42 22 October 2010


A campaign to rebrand the Broads as a national park has been finally abandoned to the relief of boating organisations.

A campaign to rebrand the Broads as a national park was finally abandoned last night to the relief of boating organisations.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman had been pushing to have the move to national-park status included in a private Bill to be put to Parliament later this year.

However, he has admitted defeat after Defra minister Barry Gardiner refused to back the proposal at a meeting in London on Monday.

Mike Evans, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, said: “I am surprised it went on as long it did. There comes a time when you can no longer defend the indefensible.”

Rod Carr, chief executive of the Royal Yachting Association, said now the national-park issue had been put to rest, the RYA and the Broads Authority had reached an agreement in principle on some of the more strategic and high-level aims of the Bill.

Boating enthusiasts have consistently fought the national-park plan highlighting the fact that under the Broads Authority's present constitution, the needs of navigation are given the same weight as conservation.

National parks, on the other hand, are legally obliged under 1949 legislation to give precedence to conservation issues under what is known as the Sandford principle.

Dr Packman has always maintained that the Broads could become a national park without applying the Sandford principle but Mr Evans insisted this was not possible and that it was vital to maintain the fair balance between conservation, navigation and recreation issues.

“It is like a three-legged stool. Take one away and the whole thing will collapse,” he said.

Broads Authority chairman Prof Kerry Turner said: “The minister was very positive about other parts of the Bill, for instance those concerning public and boating safety, but on the name change he felt the Sandford principle was immovable.”

He said there had been considerable support for calling the Broads a national park during public consultation - including agreement from all local MPs - but in light of the minister's response, he felt it right to drop it rather than jeopardise the rest of the Bill.

Prof Turner said he did not feel the decision should affect confidence in the authority - on the contrary, if they had failed to respond to the outcome of public consultation that would have become a confidence issue.

Dr Packman conceded the real concerns of national and local boating groups, and said it was important to press ahead with the “far more important aspects of the Bill”.

These included the legal adoption of the national boat-safety scheme, making third-party insurance a requirement for boat owners, tighter management of water skiing and licensing of hire boats.

Detailed negotiations with boating organisations will now take place to try to reach a consensus, for if the Bill is contested, the cost to the authority is likely to soar above the projected £100,000.

Current sticking points concern proposed changes to the navigation committee and a plan to do away with a separate navigation account.

Mr Evans said it was important to safeguard the navigation committee's important role as a consultative body.

If a separate navigation account was abolished, it was vital to ensure toll payers could still easily see how their £1.8m was being spent.

It is hoped a final draft of the Bill can go before the Broads Authority at the end of November, and it is likely to become law by next autumn.

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