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CHALLENGES FOR LEISURE CRAFT PASSING THROUGH GT YARMOUTH PORT

Updated: Mar 27

Introduction

This paper sets out the challenges, risks and potential mitigation measures for leisure boat owners seeking access from the Norfolk Broads to the North Sea and back to the Broads, where their boats are usually moored. It has been prepared by the Broads Society and the Broom Owners Club, with additional support from other contributors, and builds on some concerns recently published by the Broads Society here.


The authors express their collective concerns about the serious risks that currently exist for leisure vessels and crew passing through Gt Yarmouth port. We seek constructive discourse with local government bodies and organisations that have industry authority and responsibility for the port facilities to mitigate the dangers and find safe solutions.


The Port Leisure Users Annual Meeting, facilitated by Peel Ports, is scheduled for 02 April 2024 and must bring the relevant parties together to begin an integrated and systemic review of the facilities for users of leisure craft, together with a programme of harmonious and positive discourse.


Background

The Broads have traditionally provided a safe inland haven for leisure craft, with practical access to and from the sea via the rivers Yare and Bure and the port of Great Yarmouth.

In recent years, recreational boat owners have become increasingly frustrated as the challenges to navigation out to sea from the Broads have intensified. There is clear evidence of boat owners either forsaking boating entirely, or moving their boats to other, better-served locations, such as the South Coast.



Herring Bridge, Great Yarmouth
The New Herring Bridge includes Waiting / Demasting Facilities ((credit Mark Collins)


According to a study conducted by the Royal Yachting Association, the local economic value of a moored vessel can be as high as £25K per annum – a figure that many boatowners will understand when considering their outlay on tolls, mooring fees, maintenance provided by local engineers and supporting industries, and expenditure on hospitality and other leisure activities in the area.


There are 11,000 private, and more than 1000 hire boats using the Broads waterways, and boaters make up a high proportion of the 7.5 million visitors welcomed here annually. While not all boats will generate business as high as £25K, boating on the Broads is clearly driving an economic value to the area of at least £100 million per annum. Without the proper infrastructure and safety measures for leisure boating, businesses, jobs and livelihoods will be unable to reach their full potential.


In addition, the Broads has traditionally been an attractive destination for foreign leisure craft. German, Dutch, and Belgian yachtsmen made a significant contribution to the tourist economy in past years, but this has declined recently due to restricted access and very poor facilities for visiting vessels.


The fundamental constraint has been the closure for around three years of Haven Bridge, due to the necessary and long-overdue upgrade of its vintage mechanics, which was unexpectedly delayed due to the pandemic and other factors. Norfolk County Council have now completed the works at considerable expense to the local taxpayer, and it is important that an appropriate return on investment and value is delivered by optimising the bridge’s updated functionality.


On 09 January 2024, the boating community was notified by Peel Ports, without any prior consultation or notice, of new operating procedures to be effective from 01 January 2024, these being:

  • Haven Bridge lifts twice daily at fixed times, 10:00 and 14:00

  • Introduction of a new ‘Transit Fee’ of £20 each way per leisure craft


We are concerned that the fixed schedule may compromise the safety of vessels and their crew, as bridge lifts cannot be matched to variable weather and tide conditions. Whilst highly inconvenient for outbound passage planning, this also presents a potential danger to craft requiring inbound passage from the North Sea. Refusal to allow Haven Bridge to be opened more than twice a day would mean that holding berths will be needed for those vessels that can't pass under one or more bridges, both on Breydon Water and downstream from the Herring Bridge. Otherwise vessels would be forced to fight the tide on the Yare and also once out at sea.



Greta Yarmouth River
The new pontons at the Herring Bridge are a welcome improvement to safety. (Credit Mark Collins)


The leisure boating community also questions the legality of the transit fee, based on the understanding that a legacy right of navigation exists. It may be that a fee is justified if bridges are having to be raised, but surely not if the vessel can pass freely under all bridges. The Peel Ports charges document is not clear on this point, referring only to "transiting the river ".


Notwithstanding this, the transit fee adds an unprecedented cost to boaters, particularly those that regularly use the port, and is a deterrent that not only compromises safety, but also any beneficial return to taxpayers on the recent investment by Norfolk County Council.


Finally, the authors are pleased to see the initial plans for the North Quay Regeneration Project. This 4 ha riverside gateway development, having succeeded in raising £20M Levelling Up Funding, has the potential to provide important facilities for both domestic and overseas leisure boaters, attracting significant new investment into Gt Yarmouth.


Unfortunately, the information currently available treats the site simply as a land-based development and takes no advantage of the riverside position. Boat owners want to see more thought given to the site as a proper quay, with assets for navigators to enjoy, and capable of bringing revenue to Gt Yarmouth. We would appreciate additional information and an opportunity for dialogue.


Challenges, Risks and Potential Mitigation 

Measures


Table of risk GT Yarmouth






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