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High Court inquiry into Broads National Park rebranding could be decided as early as this week

Sunset across the River Yare near Brundall on the Norfolk Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Sunset across the River Yare near Brundall on the Norfolk Broads. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

A major legal challenge into the “wrong and misleading” rebranding of the Broads could be determined in the next few weeks.

Broads National Park - history

The Broads joined the National Park family in 1989, but has never legally been a national park.

In 2008 and 2009 the government objected to any change in name on legal grounds, but later said it was down to the authority and its stakeholders.

In January last year, the Broads Authority voted to rebrand the region’s waterways – deciding to call them the Broads National Park.

They said there would be no change in the legal name, instead hoping the rebrand would boost tourism.

In May last year, the Harris’ launched a judicial review inquiry, claiming the authority acted “unlawfully” and “irrationally”.

A High Court judge ruled in July that there was no case to answer.

However, one month on, a second judge disagreed – and granted the couple a full judicial review hearing.

After the Broads Authority renamed Norfolk and Suffolk’s wetlands the Broads National Park – despite the area not legally being a national park – last January, landowners Tim and Geli Harris felt something was amiss.

The decision was made to boost tourism and attract more visitors, but Mr Harris, of Catfield Hall, criticised the consultation process and described the decision as “wrong and misleading”.

The couple were granted a High Court judicial review into the decision last July – and a ruling could be made later this week.

Among their claims are that the rebrand misrepresents the Broads Authority, that the authority has used a power it is not permitted to and that Natural England was not consulted.

Tim and Geli Harris who own Catfield Fen - one of the top wildlife sites in country - battling to stop over-water abstraction that is drying out fen.



Picture: James BassTim and Geli Harris who own Catfield Fen - one of the top wildlife sites in country - battling to stop over-water abstraction that is drying out fen. Picture: James Bass

Their legal papers say: “By misappropriating the name, identity and function of a national park, the purported rebranding has the potential to confuse the public as to the status of the authority.

“We are unaware of any other public authority lawfully rebranding itself in the style of another public body with different and legally distinct functions.

“Given the local, regional and national importance of this matter, and the authority’s clear disregard for the law, its duties and the environment as a whole, we are confident the court will grant such an order.”

When it was announced, Jacquie Burgess, chairman of the Broads Authority, said the authority had followed “due process” in its rebranding and was “confident” in its defence of the position.

A judicial review challenge considers the lawfulness of a decision made by a public body and focuses on the way a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

What do you think of the rebranding? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

What would happen if the Broads legally became a National Park?

Areas with legal National Park status have two statutory purposes – to conserve the area and to promote use and enjoyment.

But after conflicts over which to put first arose, a committee produced the Sandford Principle, which ruled that conserving the natural beauty and wildlife of parks should prevail.

However, as they are not legally a national park, the Broads are dealt with under separate legislation – the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 – which confers three duties: conservation, promoting use and, thirdly, protecting the interests of navigation.

Many say that should the Broads legally become a National Park, the Sandford Principle would force them to prioritise conservation, which could mean that waterways are closed to preserve the environment and wildlife.

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