A 120-year tradition of boat building at one of the Norfolk Broads' most well known firms is coming to an end – with the loss of up to 20 jobs.

Eastern Daily Press: Boat buliders busy in the Broom Boats workshop, as the company celebrated its 115th anniversary. Picture: Steve AdamsBoat buliders busy in the Broom Boats workshop, as the company celebrated its 115th anniversary. Picture: Steve Adams

Broom Boats announced it will stop building boats at its yard in Brundall following a number of unprofitable years for its manufacturing division.

But its management team says it wants to keep the Broom brand alive as it undertakes a restructure which will see greater focus on its popular boat hire business.

Its marina and repair and maintenance operations will be unaffected.

Peter Reeve, general manager at Broom Boats, who joined the firm to help implement the restructure, said there will be opportunities for some staff facing redundancy to rejoin the company in its leisure division.

'Most people on the Broads understand the vagaries of the boating business,' he said.

'We are devastated that we cannot make boat building work but we are determined to maintain our site for boating – there is a passion in me and the shareholders for this.

'The fact that we have a mandate to carry on and can become profitable once we have restructured is very positive. Sadly we will have to let some employees go, but they have been incredibly loyal and we are grateful for their efforts.'

Mr Reeve said increasing material costs and a fall in demand for luxury boats had put pressure on Broom's manufacturing division – which has been operating in Brundall since 1898.

'Oyster [Yachts] and other boat builders in the UK have been struggling. The owners of this business have lost money for five or six years primarily through the manufacturing business – other areas of the business have been subsidising it,' he said.

'There has always been a real passion for the Broom brand so the amount of emphasis within the business on building these luxury boats has been disproportionate.

'But these problems are not different to any other manufacturing firm – it is difficult to balance and get the order book right.'

In a statement, Broom Boats chief executive Ross Stuart said the firm 'remains committed to developing its excellent marina, hire fleet and service operation'.

Fellow Broads boat builder Oyster Yachts was rescued out of administration this week by technology entrepreneur Richard Hadida.

What's next for Broom Boats?

While boat building may be how Broom Boats made its name, the management team feel boat hire could hold to key to its future.

With tourism in Norfolk continuing to grow year-on-year, the company wants to capitalise on its established position in the leisure market by investing in its 24-strong hire fleet.

General manager Peter Reeve said: 'There are more and more people looking at short breaks, or at holidaying out of season. We are confident that the style of our boats will be attractive to boaters and non-boaters.'

Broom's workshop, which carries out a variety of boat maintenance work, will continue to play a key role in the business and will form the lion's share of revenue in the 'early days' of the restructure, Mr Reeve said.

He added that the ultimate aim was for the three remaining divisions of the business – leisure, maintenance and the marina – to account for an equal portion of income.