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Broads toll increases set to be trimmed

PUBLISHED: 09:50 17 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:48 05 July 2010

Plans for big rises in tolls to use the Broads have been dropped because of concerns about the economic recession.

The change of heart by the Broads Authority has been welcomed by boat owners.

Plans for big rises in tolls to use the Broads have been dropped because of concerns about the economic recession.

The change of heart by the Broads Authority has been welcomed by boat owners. But it means that there are likely to be higher rises in years to come, and that the authority will have to make cutbacks in its budget.

Last month Broads Authority officers unveiled plans for an aver-age 9pc rise in tolls, with reductions for the smallest craft to encourage young people to take up boating, and large increases for the biggest boats.

The plans got a frosty reception from the authority's navigation committee, which proposed a 6pc increase across the board, with reductions for the smallest boats.

Now those proposals are being put to the full Broads Authority, where there is expected to be heated debate at its meeting on Friday.

The report to the meeting says that motor boat orders are reportedly down by 40pc, and says: “Tolls are but a small part of owning and maintaining a boat and the level of increase is unlikely to make a big difference to individual decisions. However, psychologically it is important, and the authority should send a signal that it recognises that businesses and individuals will be facing difficult times.”

Chief executive John Packman said: “The economic situation has changed quite radically in the last few weeks. We recognise that it will have an impact on toll-payers.”

He added that the perception that people who run boats could probably afford the increases “is true for quite a lot of all boat owners, but not all boat owners”.

Dr Packman said that budget cuts would have to be made whatever decision is made on Friday. And if the recession proves long-lasting, he said there would be a serious problem. “You can get away with making savings for one year but it would be difficult to do it again.”

Garth Cooper, a spokesman for the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, which represents 45 clubs and associations that use the Broads, said: “We are relieved and somewhat encouraged to see the Broads Authority's officers have accepted the navigation committee and NSBA recommendation of a 6pc increase in tolls (instead of the originally proposed 9pc rise).”

He said that he expected there to be a noticeable fall in boats on the Broads next year because of rising costs. He said: “Boating is not an elitist sport. It probably costs more to chase around after Norwich City than to run a boat.”

The revised plans mean an extra £83,000 of cuts in this year's navigation budget, and more in 2009-10. Savings for this year include not adding to contingency funds like the vessel replacement fund, and delaying piling and maintenance work at Beccles until summer next year.

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