Thursday, July 12, 2007

Waterskiing to continue on Norfolk Broads

Waterskiing is set to continue on parts of Norfolk's rivers, the Broads Authority has agreed.

A review group claimed no complaints had been received from anglers concerning skiiers or the newly-arrived sport of wakeboarding.

But not one angling group was included on the so-called stakeholder group tasked with deciding whether either sport was suitable for the Broads.

Both British Water Ski and the Eastern Rivers Ski Club were represented on the panel, whose members were invited to submit evidence.

With no angling body represented, there was no evidence submitted on behalf of angling - despite the fact most of the 10 designated ski zones, where speed limits are relaxed to allow water skiing at certain times - are popular with pike anglers.

The RSPB and Broads Society reported irritation from noise but produced no evidence to suggest any wildlife disturbance and only a low number of complaints were received.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association reported conflict with boats towing and a variety of measures have been proposed to address these concerns.

In 1997 an independent review panel concluded waterskiing should be banned on the grounds that it was unsafe and too intrusive for the Broads. But when no alternative areas could be found the Authority allowed it to continue.

In 2000 the Port Marine Safety Code’s Formal Risk Assessment identified the waterskiing status as 'intolerable'.

But the Broads Authority resolved to develop a voluntary waterskiing management regime, which included increased signage of waterski zones, a restriction on the number of ski permits and a requirement for all waterskiers and drivers to be members of the Eastern Rivers Ski Club.

Trudi Wakelin, Director of Waterways, said: “The voluntary waterskiing management regime has worked so well that waterskiing is now classified as a hazard in the 'as low as is reasonably practicable' category.

"There has been a significant decline in waterskiing on the Broads and we are looking at ways to further minimise its effect.

"We have developed a number of specific recommendations which will come into force on royal assent of the Broads Bill.”

The Authority has undertaken a further survey to determine the pattern of use of waterski zones which it will use to help it to amend times and zones to minimise this conflict.

The independent chairman, Ian White, said: “This had been a very wide ranging review. I commend the members of the panel for the professional and diligent way in which their evidence was put and the conclusions arrived at.

"We had to take a very objective and evidence based approach and while I expect that our conclusions and recommendations will be tested and challenged I have every confidence that they will be well received.

“It is a credit to Eastern Rivers Ski Club that they have conducted themselves so well and complied with the management regime to the letter. In three years there have been no accidents and very few complaints.”

Julian Barnwell, Chairman, Eastern Rivers Water Ski Club, said: “British Water Ski and Eastern Rivers Water Ski Club are very pleased with how the review panel has worked together in a mature fashion where facts have been examined and not perceptions.

"However we understand that our sport needs to develop its public relations and we will continue to work with our members, the Broads Authority and the other members of the Waterski Panel to improve these as well as the management of waterskiing on the Broads rivers.”

The Broads Authority has agreed that wakeboarding should be permitted under careful management on the Broads for a one year trial period after which it will be reviewed to test the effectiveness of management measures.

Trudi Wakelin said: ”We have given careful and detailed consideration to wakeboarding and have undertaken a comprehensive risk assessment, taking into account quiet enjoyment of the Broads, wash, conflict with other users and safety.”

The Navigation committee next meets on Thursday, September 6, at Reedham Village Hall (9.30am).

For the full waterskiing review, including days and times when waterskiing is permitted and permitted zones, click here.