Broads set for water skiing zones

STEPHEN PULLINGER The future of water skiing on the Broads looks set to be finally assured - ending the 10-year threat of a ban.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

The future of water skiing on the Broads looks set to be finally assured - ending the 10-year threat of a ban.

A Broads-Authority commissioned review panel has recommended the sport should be allowed to carry on in 10 specified zones on the River Yare and Waveney in the quieter Southern Broads.

Its report will be considered at a special meeting of the Broads Forum - representing 50 interest groups - on Tuesday and a decision will then be taken by the Broads Authority on June 29.

The future for water skiing had looked bleak in 1998 when Broads Authority members voted that it was an “inappropriate activity” that should be banned.

However, the ban was never enforced and in 2003 a voluntary management regime was developed with Eastern Rivers Ski Club and British Waterski to run for a trial period of three years.

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Trudi Wakelin, the Authority's director of waterways, said: “The voluntary management regime has worked so well that water skiing is now classified as a hazard in the 'as low as is reasonably practicable' category.”

The review panel, whose members were drawn from nine different interest groups, were invited to produce information on how a variety of sports and activities were affected by water skiing - evidence included complaints and water skiers' logbooks.

Anglers raised no objections and recognised the need for co-existence with other users, while the RSPB and Broads Authority, while reporting irritation from noise, produced no evidence to suggest wildlife disturbance.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association reported conflict with boats towing and a variety of measures have been proposed to address these concerns.

Panel chairman Ian White said: “While I expect our conclusions and recommendations to be tested and challenged I have every confidence they will be well received.

“It is a credit to Eastern Rivers Water Ski Club that they have conducted themselves so well. In three years there have been no accidents and very few complaints.”

Julian Barnwell, chairman of the water ski club, said he was pleased how the panel had “worked in a mature fashion where facts have been examined and not perceptions”.

The Authority will undertake a further survey to determine the pattern of use of water ski zones which will help it to amend times and zones to minimise conflict.

Officers are also recommending that wakeboarding - where competitors ride the wake of a speedboat- should be permitted under careful management on the Broads for a one-year trial period to be reviewed at the end of that time.

Phil Ollier, secretary of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, said they did not oppose “properly managed water skiing on the Broads” but opposed wakeboarding because of the excessive wash and resulting danger to other river users.