Tourism fears over proposed Broads 6.2pc toll increase

Sailing on the River Thurne on a very warm but breezy afternoon in early July.Picture: James Bass

Sailing on the River Thurne on a very warm but breezy afternoon in early July.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

The highest toll hike on Broads boats in seven years could damage the tourism industry, it has been claimed.

The Broads Authority could force crafts using the waterways to pay a 6.2pc tax increase – the highest rise since 2008/9 – in a bid to pay for major projects.

The move has sparked anger in the hire-boat community and prompted a discussion over what impact the rise could have on tourism in the region.

Matthew Thwaites, director of Wroxham-based Barnes Brinkcraft and vice-chairman of the Broads Hire Boat Federation, described the potential rise as 'an absolute joke'.

He said hire-boat operators paid three times the total a private-hire customer does, and warned increases as big as 6.2pc could both stall and hurt Norfolk's £3bn tourism industry.

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There are four options for toll increases which Broads Authority members will be asked to discuss, ranging from a 3.9pc to 6.2pc rise. Last year the toll went up by 1.7pc.

The highest rise could mean a programme of work – ranging from mooring refurbishment and hazard removal at Dickey Works to channel marker renewal at Breydon Water – would go ahead. The lowest increase would mean cancelling all those projects.

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John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, said major work such as the Hickling Broad Enhancement Project and maintenance on Mutford Lock, had led to the rise.

Broads Hire Boat Federation secretary Tony Howes said the potential 6.2pc rise would be alarming to the 28 member companies across the Broads.

'Hire boat operators would look to see some relief in the amount of tolls they pay. It puts operators off,' he added.

'If you can't make your business pay you think twice about running it. The Broads Authority should try to work more economically and with less waste.'

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