Norfolk Broads Bill Sails On

The Broads Authority Bill has received the go ahead from a House of Lords Committee and is now in the final stages in its passage through Parliament.

It is hoped that it will receive Royal Assent by early summer so that some of the key provisions, such as the licensing of hire boats and the requirement to have third party insurance, can be introduced in April 2010.

The Bill, the main purpose of which is to improve safety on the Broads waterways, was first considered by Parliament in November 2006. The Bill has been amended and refined since then but all the main provisions have been retained. The Government supports the Bill and agreement has been reached on its provisions with boating organisations.

The five Peers on the committee spent seven days hearing evidence from the Authority on the need for the Bill, and from petitioners objecting to it. On Wednesday 11 February the Committee decided that the Bill should proceed without any significant amendments and provided helpful comments for the Authority going forward.

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman said: "The Committee looked at the Bill in great detail and we are delighted by the outcome. We wish to thank the Peers that served on the committee for their careful consideration of the provisions."

There were a small number of private petitioners against the Bill but the only boating organisation to petition against the Bill, The Norfolk Broads Yacht Club, withdrew its petition after reaching agreement with the Broads Authority over the licensing and registration of boats in adjacent waters.

The club is in a unique position because it leases the privately owned Wroxham Broad from the Trafford Estate, which does not form part of the 'navigation area', for which the Broads Authority is responsible. However, the Bill contains an important set of safety provisions that extends the requirement for certain categories of boat to have a Boat Safety Certificate and third party insurance on to waters connected to the navigation area.

The Authority was advised that a Private Bill was the only way it could bring its legislation up to date and in line with other inland navigations such as the canals. Private Bills are not common but the progress of the Bill has been considerably helped by the safeguards agreed with the Royal Yachting Association and Inland Waterways Association which represent private boat owners and the British Marine Federation which represents commercial interests.

Philip Burgess, Executive Director of the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities said: "I am delighted that the Broads Authority Bill has passed this latest hurdle with flying colours. Modernising the legislation of navigation authorities is vitally important and in the public interest. Other smaller navigations continue to watch the pioneering work of the Broads Authority with interest."

The only organisation to give evidence at the Committee against the Bill was the Norfolk Association of Parish and Town Councils, which was seeking to change the membership of the Authority to include parish councillors. The government has indicated that such a change using this Bill is premature, pending a decision by Ministers following a consultation involving all the English national parks. The move was also opposed by national boating interests.

Stephen Johnson, Chairman of the Broads Authority said: "The Authority awaits with interest the Minister's decision on the matters of direct elections and parish membership on which he consulted at the end of last year. We are also watching for the announcement from the Boundary Committee, now scheduled for July, on the future structure of local government, which will have a knock on impact on the Authority's membership."

"We now look forward to the final stages of the Bill's passage at Westminster and will continue to work hard to make sure that the Bill is passed so that we can make the Broads a safer, more enjoyable place."

Date Added - 12-Feb-2009

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