Is it time for big companies to sponsor the Broads?
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014
As funding reductions loom for the Broads in the imminent spending review, its caretaker is looking at sponsorship to bridge the gap. Tourism and Broads correspondent ROSA MCMAHON reports.
Government departments are bracing themselves for cuts of up to 40pc when George Osborne spells out his economic blueprint later this month.
The effects of previous savings have already been felt on the Broads, with its grant falling by £1.5m in five years.
Its victims have been the closure of half the tourist information centres and reduction in the maintenance of rights of way.
But now Broads Authority chief executive John Packman has warned more areas could be affected if grants continue to shrink.
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A solution he – and the 14 national parks – are exploring is attracting private-sector companies to sponsor the areas in a bid to bring in more income.
The National Parks Partnership, a company of 15 national parks, was set up in a bid to access corporate sponsorship by hunting in a pack.
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It is part of the Broads rebranding strategy which was rolled out in January after the area was renamed Broads National Park, despite it not legally being a national park, but rather a member of the national parks family.
Based on the American model the parks, ranging from the Broads to the Lake District, want businesses to provide goods such as cars and clothing, or hard cash, in exchange for promotion and association with the area.
Dr Packman admitted he would never have foreseen taking the Broads down this route 10 years ago, but explained the coming spending review could be 'disastrous' for national parks, adding that he must act to protect key areas.
'We are not just sitting on our hands waiting for something to happen,' he said.
'We are actually doing all we can to reduce its effect and always looking to see if we can bring in any more income.
'If the savings come we can either close down or we can look for ways in which we can continue to do the important work we all believe in.'
Robin Godber, chairman of the Broads Society, said he would cautiously welcome the sponsorship move. He added: 'I can understand the authority is having to look for other aspects of funding, but it's something one needs to tread very carefully on. It depends who it is they get on board.'
Dr Packman conceded that the £6,000 made currently from sponsorship from home fragrance company Airwick goes nowhere close to plugging the funding gap, but said it was a start which stopped any additional pressure being piled on river-users.
'We have to be innovative and try to find new streams of funding,' he explained.
'We just can't just rely on the toll payers, it's something we think very carefully about.
'Most of the cuts to date have been to the back office, but now we are getting to the point where there is not much room for many more.
'The National Parks Partnerships are pretty important for all of us.
'The lessons that all 15 national parks have had is that it is possible to go to local companies and ask for sponsorship.'
A spokesman for Defra was keen to make it clear the Broads was not a national park and the Broads Authority was not a national park authority, but said the department recognised the benefits of the 'powerful international national park brand and the value that utilising it in the Broads could bring'.
What do you think about the Broads being sponsored? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk