Broads Authority calls for ‘urgent support’ after pausing hire boat tolls
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
The Broads Authority has asked the government to offer “urgent financial support” after it was forced to suspend hire boat tolls during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Broads Authority (BA), which is responsible for maintaining Norfolk’s network of waterways, has activated a clause in its legislation allowing hire boats out of use to be exempted from tolls.
But the BA’s chief executive, John Packman, has warned that this has created a “potential funding gap” in the £3.5m the authority gets in toll payments.
Around a third of this comes from hire boats - and is used to maintain 125 miles of waterways.
The BA has confirmed:
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Mr Packman said: “The hire boat industry faces a huge threat and we have grave concerns for it, along with the wider tourism economy which is so vital for the area supporting over 7,000 jobs.
“Hire boat companies have lost their main income stream.
“Everything we do to maintain navigation is supported by tolls.
“If that income dries up we have a massive problem. Our financial mechanism means that we are not allowed to divert our Defra funding to support navigation.”
Mr Packman said the BA would not charge hire boat firms tolls while their boats were not in use and added: “In doing so we have created a potential funding gap.
“I have written to the secretary of state for the environment raising this very point and asking for urgent financial support.”
However, the BA confirmed that the same rule could not apply to private boaters, but they would be sympathetic to individuals in extreme financial hardship and were awaiting clarification from safety authorities over delays to boat safety certificates.
Greg Munford, chief executive of Richardsons Leisure, said: “We have closed our entire hire fleet business, both for day boats and holiday cruisers.
“During these tough times, we appreciate the support of the BA and the work they do so that the Broads continues to be a well-kept, wonderful place for when guests return to us and other operators, bringing a much-needed boost to the local economy.”