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Opposition to new tolls proposal

PUBLISHED: 10:50 24 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:36 05 July 2010

A proposal to fundamentally change the way Broads tolls are levied yesterday ran into choppy waters during its first test at a meeting of the Broads Authority's navigation committee.

A proposal to fundamentally change the way Broads tolls are levied yesterday ran into choppy waters during its first test at a meeting of the Broads Authority's navigation committee.

Ahead of the County Hall meeting, officers unveiled plans to replace the present system of flat-rate, across-the-board percentage toll increases by a flexible regime that would see smaller boats pay less and larger motor boats considerably more.

Their proposal would work out at an average 9pc toll increase next year, but to encourage young sailors the smallest craft would actually receive a sizeable toll cut and the smallest motor boats would also benefit. The flip side would see the largest class of motor cruises facing a £98 toll increase.

In a further departure, officers want to scrap the system whereby hire boats pay 2.7 times as much toll as private motor cruisers. Instead, to help the hard-pressed industry they are proposing a simple 9pc increase for such vessels.

However, after a two-hour debate, the influential committee effectively called for officers to go back to the drawing board.

Its recommendation to the full Broads Authority, which will determine toll levels in December, is to stick with the current system, retaining the multiplier for hire boats.

And as an acknowledgement of tough economic times, it voted for a reduced 6pc increase in tolls.

Its only concession to the proposed changes was a recommendation to cut the toll for the smallest sailing boats, which would see their bill go down from £57 to £43.

The recommendations would leave a sizeable hole in the navigation budget which committee members suggested could be addressed by judicious cutbacks elsewhere.

Alan Mallett told the meeting that the present tolls system had been put in place for five years in 2005 after lengthy consultation - to suddenly change it without time for proper deliberation would be a cause for considerable criticism.

He said the criticism would be all the greater because the proposal would mean a “substantial increase in tolls for certain classes of boats”.

David Broad echoed Mr Mallett's views, saying the interface with the boating community was key, and consultation on wider changes was necessary.

To set the tolls at a reasonable level, he said the Broads Authority had to live in the real world and further trim its budget costs.

Committee chairman Martin Broom said the authority had got away with a succession of toll increases above inflation but it could not continue that for ever without running the risk of losing boats off the Broads.

After the meeting, authority chief executive John Packman said if the full Broads Authority followed the committee's recommendation it would mean cutbacks in services such as dredging or patrolling as the budget had already been pruned as far as it could.

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