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Ferry tours get go ahead

PUBLISHED: 19:29 19 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010

The new ferry service linking Yarmouth with some of Norfolk's top nature reserves will start running next week after the final piece of red tape was cut today.

The new ferry service linking Yarmouth with some of Norfolk's top nature reserves will start running next week after the final piece of red tape was cut today.

Former steam packet the Southern Belle, which has seen £150,000 of investment in the last three years to get it in shipshape condition, will now launch for the public on Saturday July 1.

Plans to launch the packet over Easter were scuppered by a series of demands from licencing authorities, including the Environment Agency's request for a full flood plan and Yarmouth Borough Council's for planning permission for a new landing point and ticket booth.

The last hurdle to overcome was a move from the town's Port Authority to scuttle the Southern Belle's alcohol licence application by expressing its “serious concerns” with plans to allow drinking until 3am.

But today owner Steve Wilson saw a compromise application sail through the council's licencing sub-committee, allowing the former City of London businessman to finally set a date for the maiden voyage.

This afternoon the Maritime and Coastguard Agency signed off on his safety certificate, giving the vintage vessel the green-light to start taking passengers.

Mr Wilson expressed his happiness with the drinks licence awarded, which instead of allowing him to serve from the originally requested 7am to 3am, allows him to do so from 9am to 11pm.

He said: “I think we're finally now there. It's been more work than we expected but we've had terrific support from the community and I think a lot of people are looking forward to us finally starting.

“We've been putting this together for three years and it's great to think that it's all ready - although now the hard work really begins.”

Earlier the licencing meeting was told that the ferry service would run twice a day between Stonecutters Quay in Yarmouth and Reedham, and would be able to be chartered during the evening.

Mr Wilson said evening tours, running during the summer months only, could include trips to Breydon nature reserve, part of the Halvergate site of special scientific interest.

And he told the sub-committee that charters already booked included an English Heritage tour of windmills along the River Yare, bird watching trips with the RSPCA and a tour of buildings of note with the Norfolk Archaeological Trust.

According to the terms of the licence, trips could also be accompanied with live jazz or folk music.

“We're going to keep themes of trips in line with the types of passengers we want on board,” he said. “We're not going for the young beer-swilling market.”

Chairman of the committee George Jermany said: “We all want you to have a very successful business. We all hope this takes off.”


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