THE biggest shake up in Broads tolls for more than three decades would result in a fairer way of directly linking charges to vessel size, the Broads Authority announced today.
At present, in addition to navigation charges relating to size, there is a fixed cost imposed on every vessel, resulting in smaller boats paying proportionately more per square metre than bigger vessels.
But after a year of research and analysis the Tolls Working Group is recommending that only a charge based on size is used for greater fairness and simplicity.
The recommended ‘straight line relationship’ between size of vessel by square metre and toll charge means that smaller boats will pay less than previously and bigger boats more but has been designed to make the system more equitable, simple and flexible.
Even with an annual tolls rise being imposed the proposals mean that nearly half (44pc) of boaters would pay less in 2017/18 than in 2016/17.
The Tolls Working Group, made up of seven Authority members, five of whom are also Navigation Committee members and toll payers representing both commercial and private boating interests, also anticipate that the proposed new system will boost entry level boating which has been in decline while numbers of larger vessels have increased.
The group’s report will now go to the Navigation Committee meeting on Thursday (27 October) when all its members will be asked to comment on the proposals before the full Authority decides whether to approve them.
John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, said: “For a long while there has been a disproportionate relationship between size of boat and the amount of toll paid. While we understand that there will inevitably be those who benefit more than others from this recommended change the key aim is for the system to be fairer overall so that the charges for each vessel type are based on size and size alone.
“In effect each class of vessel on the Broads will, with the exception of a very small number of special cases, be charged a fixed amount per square metre. This also builds in the scope for flexibility to respond to changing situations.”
Greg Munford, Chief Executive of Richardson’s Leisure and a private boat owner, said: “The recommendations and rationale behind the introduction of the new tolls system looks sensible to me. It is far easier to understand and provides a solution that would be hard to argue is not fair when the toll each boat owner pays is based on the size of vessel that they own.”
Jacquie Burgess is Chairman of the Broads Authority and took the role of joint Chairman of the Tolls Working Group along with Michael Whitaker, a Partner at Herbert Woods hire boat operator. She said the group considered all evidence and views carefully and took into full consideration the responses after consulting with the Broads Hire Boat Federation and the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association.
Prof Burgess added: “There is no perfect answer to structuring the tolls system but after a year of comprehensively and carefully analysing all the evidence available, consulting with all the main boating organisations and taking into consideration their feedback as well as detailed stakeholder research I am confident that the Tolls Working Group has come up with the best and fairest solution possible.”
In light of feedback from commercial operators the group proposes that the hire boat multiplier of 2.55 is abandoned in favour of a fixed amount per square metre specific to each classification of vessel.
Seven categories are proposed for commercial vessels and five for private vessels. However rowing boats, canoes and kayaks will pay a fixed charge, which will depend on whether they are private or commercial.
The eight remaining traditional wherries will also see a considerably lower than at present flat rate to reflect and protect their iconic status and their importance to the cultural heritage of the Broads.