Broads Authority

Broads Authority
Yare House
62-64 Thorpe Road
Tel: 01603 610734
Fax: 01603 756069


Constitutional status

The Broads Authority is a special statutory authority with its own Act of Parliament; The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988.

It has the same status as a national park authority and is a ‘member’ of the national park family. The Act sets out three functions of the Authority:

  • Conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Broads
  • Promoting the enjoyment of the Broads by the public; and
  • Protecting the interests of navigation

It is also the statutory harbour authority for the Broads navigation and the planning authority.

The Broads Act 2009 gave the Broads Authority further powers to regulate the navigation including the ability to issue general directions and special directions, control of construction standards and waterskiing and wakeboarding.  Additionally the Act gave the Broads Authority the power to transfer responsibility for Breydon Water and the lower River Bure from the Great Yarmouth Port Authority.  The terms of the transfer are currently being negotiated.

Description of navigation

Rivers and broads network including tidal water. A rural wetland landscape of international conservation importance with urban areas around Norwich city centre.

A brief history of the navigation

It is often stated that the Broads are a result of peat cutting during the Middle Ages. In fact, the three principal rivers – Bure, Yare and Waveney, and their tributaries; the rivers Ant, Thurne, Wensum and Chet, are natural watercourses confined in the lower reaches nearer Great Yarmouth, by man-made embankments.

It is the shallow lakes or broads themselves, which are flooded peat diggings. Where these lay close to the natural rivers, navigable links became established either naturally or by man’s intervention for drainage and transport purposes.

There are over 60 small lakes or broads in all, but only about 12 of these are connected to the rivers and publicly navigable. A further handful, although connected to the rivers, are regarded as private water not available for public navigation. The remainders are not connected to the rivers systems, although on a few, small boating and fishing activity does take place.

Since the late 19th century, water-borne holidays have been a major attraction of the Broads and tourists in all types of craft remain a very important part of the Broads’ life and economy. It is the task of the Broads Authority to maintain the fine balance between the use and enjoyment of the Broads and the wider needs of wildlife and the ecology of the area.

The Broads system consists principally of tidal rivers over which there exists a presumption of public right of navigation. Over centuries, however, man-made dykes, channels and basins have been created adjoining the main rivers and broads and the legal status of some of these is unclear. The Broads Authority is the statutory navigation authority for its own ‘navigation area’ as defined in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, but its statutory powers and bye-laws, the right to charge tolls and the obligation to dredge and so on do not apply in private waters outside the navigation area.

Current situation and use

Nearly 13,000 boats are licensed on the Broads and private boat numbers have been steadily increasing. However, while there has been a decline in hire boat numbers over the last thirty years this appears to have bottomed out and a modest expansion in hire boat numbers is now taking place.

The hire boat industry is the single most important provider of holidays in the Broads. It is estimated that theer were 7.1 million visitors to the Broads in 2010, spending a total of £437 million.  Approximately £99 million of this was generated by the boating sector as a whole.  The Broads Authority is working in partnership with the Broads Hire Boat Federation and Broads Tourism to encourage their investment in new boats and facilities and to attract new customers to the area to enjoy environmentally based tourism.

Plans for the future

In May 2011 the Authority published a new Broads Plan, the product of a participatory visioning and objective setting process that involved the many organisations and individuals with an interest in the Broads.

The plan sets the long term vision and aims for the Broads and sets out ojectives under three key themes:

  • Planning for the long term future of the Broads in response to climate change and sea level rise (understanding and responding to the key challenges facing the Broads over the next 50-100 years presented by climate change and sea level rise)
  • Working in partnership on the sustainable management of the Broads (landscape and cultural heritage; agriculture and land management; biodiversity and management of the navigation area)
  • Encouraging the sustainable use and enjoyment of the Broads (promoting understanding, enjoyment and wellbeing; and tourism recreation and access)

How we consult with our users

The statutory navigation committee

The role of the Navigation Committee is largely consultative to reflect the position as set out in the Broads Act. Its purpose is to comment on and advise the Authority on matters relating to the strategic management of the waterways. It considers strategic/significant issues only and does not consider detailed operational matters such as individual planning applications, except where they may have significant strategic or policy importance. Members of the Committee may propose items for discussion at future meetings.

Broads forum

The Broads Forum is a consultative forum which acts as a reference group to offer advice and comment on the Broads Authority’s strategic aims and objectives. It promotes closer liaison and understanding between the various interest bodies and organisations which have an interest in the Broads and its wider catchment area. Terms of Reference and the stakeholder groups from which the membership of the forum is drawn can be found under constitutional documents on the Broads Authority website.

Annual public meeting

The Broads Authority’s annual public meeting is an opportunity for all those interested in the Broads to find out more about the work of the Authority and share their views on its future priorities.


A free news publication sent to every Tolls Payer registered with the Broads Authority in February each year.

Consultation and governance review

In 2012 the Broads Authority is undertaking a comprehensive review of its consultation and governance procedures to ensure that processes are efficient and maximise feedback from stakeholders.

How we are Structurerd

The Broads Authority is made up of three directorates

  • Change Management and Resources
  • Planning and Strategy
  • Operations

Navigation statistics

Length/area of waterway

200 km of navigable waterways and 12 navigable broads

Number of locks



26.2m (86ft)

14m (46ft)  in some parts


6.1m (20ft)



2.7m (9ft)



2.7m (9ft

Varies -
Vessels under 1.7m (5’6”) not restricted

* Broads Authority vessel dimension bye-laws apply to narrower parts of the rivers. Vessels under 2.85m (12’6”) beam are not restricted.
** Drafts/depths vary. Vessels under c. 1m draft are not restricted. Vessels over 2m draft are able to operate only in southern rivers and may encounter restrictions

Boating statistics

12 month period – April 2007 - March 2008

Licences/Registrations - Long Term




Privately owned



Hire – day boats



Hire – overnight stay/timeshare



Hire – trip boat/ restaurant/passenger



Hire – hotel**



Other business/charity boats



* includes hire sailing yachts with auxiliary engines
** 4 sailing wherries,hired out with skippers

Requirements for Boating

Boat Safety Scheme:                   Compliance required from 1 April 2007
Third Party Insurance:                 Required from 2010
Annual Toll:                                     Payable on all vessels kept in the navigation for more than 28 days in any tolls year