Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Protecting the interests of navigation?

For many years now we have run the guard ships for the Three Rivers Race at Acle Bridge, logging boats through as they transit the bridge, ensuring that the race rules are observed and providing a rescue boat and radio link back to Race Control in case of emergency. Someone always falls in! In previous years we spoke to Heather and her husband who ran the shop and owned the moorings and they kindly staked off a section of mooring so that we could moor in a convenient spot to monitor the paddling zone upstream of the bridge. This year there are new owners – the Broads Authority. I wrote to Dr Packman, the Chief Executive, and asked if we could make a similar arrangement this year. He passed it to one of his staff to reply and I got a response to the effect that as they were now BA 24hr moorings it would be impossible to reserve a section of mooring as they had to be equally available to all boats, and that, in any case, a stay of over 24hrs would infringe the bye-laws (the race has a 24hr time limit).
While I accept that the letter of the bye-laws does not allow flexibility, I am aware of many occasions when sections of BA 24hr moorings have been reserved for particular craft – pleasure wherries, mud wherries, craft at BA events, etc. and I would in no way want to lobby against any such flexibility. The BA acquired powers under the 2005 Broads Act to apply Special Directions, which, if they wanted to keep their noses clean under the bye-laws, they could use in this or other cases. It is a shame that the BA are not prepared to facilitate the running of one of the premier sailing events on the Broads which attracts competitors from wide afield and spectators in their hundreds.
While I am beefing, let me mention the recent decision by the Authority’s staff to reduce the amount of dredging in 2018/19. The Authority owns plant and equipment capable of dredging well in excess of 100,000m3 a year if used efficiently. Indeed in recent years they have invested heavily at toll payers’ expense in new excavators and mud wherries. For many recent years they have set themselves the comfortable target of 50,000m3 of dredging a year. This year they have decided to reduce that to 40,000m3. What is even more amazing is that, despite requirements under the BA Act of 2005 and the legal agreement with the RYA and BMF, they did not consult the Navigation Committee before making the decision.  The Broads navigation suffers from a serious amount of siltation. Around 25,000m3 a year arrives in the navigation and there is a backlog of around 1 million to 1.5 million m3 of silt that needs to be moved to meet the Authority’s specified requirements. How can a reduction in effort be justified? It can’t be a lack of money (can it?) - the tolls have risen by more than inflation for all of living memory!
The BA has a third statutory duty, over and above the two imposed on the National Parks that it so wants to belong to. That is to protect the interests of navigation. Currently, in that respect, it is failing in its duty.