State-of-the-art workshop and dockyard will help maintain Norfolk Broads for generations to come

EDP Editor Nigel Pickover with Broads Authority head of construction maintenance and environment Rob Rogers and staff outside the new workshop at he dockyard in Thorpe St Andrew. Photo: Steve Adams

A new state-of-the art workshop and dockyard which will help maintain the majesty of the Norfolk Broads for generations of visitors for years to come.

That is the view of Broads Authority chiefs who, together with volunteers and others with an interest in promoting and working on the waterways, were at yesterday's official opening of the site at Griffin Lane, off Yarmouth Road, Norwich.

The £680,000 development, which is hub of the Broads Authority's construction and maintenance work, was taken on from May Gurney in 2007 since when the site has been completely transformed.

The steel framed and timber workshop is where the Broads Authority's workboats, launches, plant and equipment will be repaired and maintained with the newly refurbished slipway allowing access directly to and from the water.

It is hoped the development will save the Authority about £75,000 a year which can be spent on other front line services devoted to the protection and enhancement of the Broads.

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Dr John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, said: 'When we bought this site from May Gurney a number of years ago we realised the facilities were very, very poor and that it would need investment so the conditions for the staff were moved up to modern standard.

'This is quite an important day in terms of tourism and the investment the Broads Authority is making for the future of the Broads.

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'We need a facility like this if we're going to look after the Broads. The Broads aren't natural and silt up so we need to continue to dredge and need to maintain the moorings network - of more than 60 all of which need maintenance - as well as all the bits of equipment and boats which work together so this facility is really important.'

The new development, which also features purpose built offices and a training room, is an 'exemplar' in terms of how to execute a successful planning project.

Dr Packman said: 'It came in within budget and on time and I think it looks really good. We try and do it to the sort of standard that we hope others would.'

Nigel Pickover, editor of the EDP, was invited to have a look at the new building and said he welcomed it being opened so it can continue to help the Norfolk Broads both survive and thrive.

He said: 'I'm thrilled and honoured to be part of this great initiative and will be a huge supporter of the Broads Authority in the future. Well done for this innovation and good luck to the team who are great professionals.'

Yesterday's opening ceremony also saw the Broads Authority's new wherry officially named Iona.

Chairman Stephen Johnson said he hoped the new 1.654m long vessel, which was built in Ireland and can transport up to 40 tonnes of mud and silt at a time, would enjoy a 'long life of service' on the Broads.

The new dockyard development was taken on by the Broads Authority in 2007 after May Gurney, its main dredging contractor since 1989, decided to opt out of that side of its business.

By this year the Broads Authority, which also took on the May Gurney dredging team of 11 men, has helped achieve approximately 25per cent more dredging for the same money each year since 2008.

The ambitious development has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Promoting Integrated Sediment Management (PRISMA) which has involved the Broads Authority working with Dutch, Belgian and French Partners to develop several innovative solutions for dredging, treating and reusing sediment in the Broads.

The Broads Authority was set to throw open the doors to its new workshop and dockyard for its annual public meeting today<Saturday June 29th>.

The event, which takes place from 10am until 1.30 pm, will include two short presentations by Dr John Packman, outlining the Authority's achievements during the past year and its future plans.

Each presentation, at 10.30 am and 12.30 pm will give the public the chance to ask questions.

Short trips aboard the Broads Authority's new patrol launch, the Spirit of Breydon, will be offered free of charge.

Broads Authority Panel

The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Authority was set up through a special Act of Parliament (The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act) in 1988 and began operating as a Special Statutory Authority in 1989.

It is the general duty of the Authority to manage the Broads for the purposes of:

• Conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Broads;

• Promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Broads by the public; and

• Protecting the interests of navigation.

The Broads Act also sets down the need for the authority to have regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry, and the economic and social interests of those who live or work in the Broads.

These duties are similar to those of Britain's national parks and by creating a Special Statutory Authority the Government recognised that the Broads needed the same level of protection as the national parks of England and Wales.

The Broads benefits from being part of a wider family of specially protected areas, including the national parks, yet also has the advantage of its own tailor-made legislation in order to deal with specific issues in the Broads, notably the protection of navigation interests.

The formation of the Broads Authority meant the area finally had a dedicated body looking after its interests - something which until then had been missing.

By the 1950s much of the clear water of the Broads had become cloudy, bankside reed and vegetation were eroding, and acres of unmanaged fen were slowly turning to scrub.

But it was not until 1967 that the then Nature Conservancy Council, now Natural England, published an alarming report about the degradation of the Broads. This was followed by a study commissioned by the Norfolk Naturalists Trust, now the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, published in 1976.

The Countryside Commission, now also Natural England, took up the case and urged the local authorities in Norfolk and Suffolk to provide proper management for the area in order to halt and, if possible, reverse the decline.

A special organisation to manage the Broads was then finally established in 1978.

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