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The Norfolk Broads Blockade: Unveiling the Chaos Behind the Haven Bridge Closure

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NBF
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The Norfolk Broads Blockade: Unveiling the Chaos Behind the Haven Bridge Closure

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The protracted blockade of the Norfolk Broads—instigated by the operators' refusal to raise a crucial bridge—has been attributed to an earlier incident involving inebriated individuals attempting to direct traffic during a previous opening, it can now be disclosed.

The entity overseeing Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth has finally unveiled the underlying cause for its steadfast closure since April, igniting the ire of mariners and marine industries dependent on its operation to traverse between the Broads and the North Sea.

Peel Ports had previously alluded to ambiguous 'health and safety' justifications for its stance. However, it has come to light that their reluctance to open the bridge stems from a February episode wherein the bridge malfunctioned during an opening, and frustrated members of the public took matters into their own hands.

During this turmoil, certain individuals—reportedly under the influence—attempted to manage traffic, while others breached safety barriers in a bid to ascertain if they could still cross. Additionally, drivers allegedly directed abuse toward bridge personnel.

Peel Ports harbours apprehensions about a recurrence of these disorderly events and thus refuses to open the bridge, notwithstanding its statutory obligation to facilitate river traffic.

A deadlock persists with Norfolk County Council, the proprietor of the crossing, with Peel Ports demanding enhanced measures from the council to address its health and safety concerns prior to reopening. These negotiations have thus far been unfruitful, leaving boaters and businesses at a standstill.

One enterprise has reported significant financial losses due to the continued closure, while a sailor has found himself stranded on the Broads for six weeks, his 100ft vessel too large to navigate the sole alternative route—a lock near Lowestoft.

Meanwhile, discontent within the boating community intensifies. A prominent figure remarked, "They are in violation of the law, unequivocally. They must be held accountable. They cannot forsake their statutory duty due to the misconduct of a few individuals."

YEARS OF EXASPERATION AND A DAY OF MAYHEM

The 94-year-old bridge, a vital conduit into Yarmouth across the Yare, has been plagued with issues for years.

A defect in 2019 rendered it inoperative and necessitated extensive repairs.

Pandemic-induced delays meant these repairs were only finalised at the end of the previous year.

However, merely weeks later, new issues surfaced, culminating in the bridge's breakdown on February 2, which incited chaotic scenes.

"We witnessed individuals leaping barriers, wandering onto the road, and even an intoxicated person attempting to direct traffic—all on the same day," recounted Richard Goffin, a director at Peel Ports, following the incident. He also reported staff had faced threats of violence on multiple occasions.

Over half a dozen incidents were logged in the days following the initial February 2 disruption, according to a spokesperson.

"The emphasis lies more on the occurrence rather than the frequency. No one should face threats at their workplace," he added.

He highlighted that the current scenario exposes staff to "unacceptable risks."

Efforts to address these safety concerns with Norfolk County Council have yet to yield results.

"NCC is refusing to acknowledge any health and safety responsibilities," he added.

In contrast, NCC has stated that repairs were conducted post-February incident and that the bridge is now fully operational.

BLOCKADE REPERCUSSIONS

The bridge blockade is profoundly affecting Norfolk's boating community.

The four-year closure has incurred a loss of approximately £2m for Goodchild Marine, a boatbuilding firm, and the current closure imposes additional costs due to the need for extensive detours to test their vessels via alternative routes from their Burgh Castle site.

Alan Goodchild, who manages the business alongside his wife Sue, expressed the immense frustration felt by river users.

"As a company, it creates massive logistical challenges and is highly disruptive," he stated. Insiders within the boating community have indicated preparations for legal action against Peel Ports for failing to meet its statutory obligations, potentially holding the firm liable for significant financial reparations.

POTENTIAL LEGAL CLASH?

Peter Ward of the Broom Owner's Club—a consortium of seafaring cruiser enthusiasts—has been a vocal critic of the situation.

"They are violating the law, plain and simple," he asserted. "There should be repercussions. They cannot disregard their statutory duty due to the misbehaviour of a few individuals." Members of the Broads Authority are increasingly concerned and are advocating for a resolution.

A spokeswoman emphasized, "This situation is adversely impacting local enterprises and private boat owners who are unable to transit the port to the sea."

"The Authority urges both parties to resolve the matter expeditiously."
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Re: The Norfolk Broads Blockade: Unveiling the Chaos Behind the Haven Bridge Closure

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The Norfolk Broads' Haven Bridge blockade, which persisted for over 80 days, has finally concluded. After enduring months of exasperation, the operators of Haven Bridge have announced that it will reopen to river traffic.

Peel Ports declared the cessation of the blockade on Monday.

Previously, the company had refrained from raising the bridge due to tumultuous incidents in February, including individuals scaling barriers, staff harassment, and an intoxicated person attempting to direct traffic.

Peel Ports demanded that Norfolk County Council, the bridge's proprietor, implement measures to prevent a recurrence of these disturbances, resulting in a protracted impasse.

The announcement follows revelations that the bridge was scheduled to open for routine maintenance, though boats remained unable to pass beneath it.

Coincidentally, this development occurred a day before Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor was to address the issue during a visit to the company, which sought to demonstrate that the port area was operational.

Boaters and marine enterprises have lamented that the closure, effectively besieging the Broads, has incurred substantial financial losses.

A company director, grappling with significant additional expenses due to the closure, remarked, “The entire situation has been futile and exasperating.”

Resolution of the Blockade
The nearly century-old Haven Bridge, restored to functionality late last year following a multi-million-pound repair program that faced delays, was once again closed four months later.

Peel Ports attributed the closure on April 9 to a series of staff abuse incidents in February, accusing Norfolk County Council of neglecting its health and safety responsibilities.

During the standoff, NCC maintained that Peel Ports had a statutory obligation to operate the bridge, as it manages the Great Yarmouth port.

It appears that the financially constrained County Hall has relented, agreeing to share the costs of operating the bridge while both parties seek a long-term resolution.

In a cabinet meeting on Monday, NCC leader Kay Mason-Billig stated, “We want local businesses to be reassured that NCC has intervened to ensure the bridge will be operational, allowing them to use it henceforth.

“It has been a significant concern for many in Great Yarmouth.”

The agreement is slated to last for six months.

This decision follows a notice issued last week indicating that NCC engineers would raise the bridge weekly for maintenance, though mariners were still unable to pass, a move criticized as a “farce.”

A Peel Ports spokeswoman expressed, “We are pleased to have reached this temporary accord and will continue collaborating with NCC to devise a long-term solution.”

"Futile and Exasperating"
The news has brought considerable relief to Norfolk’s boating community, which has faced severe repercussions due to the closure.

The only alternative route to the sea from the Broads was via Mutford Lock at Oulton Broad, unsuitable for many vessels, necessitating long and costly detours.

Nonetheless, frustration lingers over the blockade's aftermath.

Goodchild Marine, a boat-building firm situated on the River Waveney at Burgh Castle, has been unable to test its vessels at sea due to the closure.

Sue Goodchild, who co-manages the business with her husband Alan, lamented, “The entire episode has been futile and exasperating. It is a great misfortune that the Broads network has suffered due to the inability to reach an agreement, leading instead to a deadlock.”

Terry Everett, stranded in the Broads for six weeks, waiting to sail his 100ft cruiser to its new abode in Essex, expressed, “We are utterly delighted that we can now proceed on our journey. We aim to depart at the earliest opportunity.

“The entire affair is perplexing and somewhat absurd; the rationale eludes me.”

Peter Ward, of the Broom Owner’s Club—a group of individuals who sail cruisers built at the Brundall boatyard—eagerly anticipates resuming sea voyages.

“The closure decision seemed disproportionately severe. This is a significant and welcomed advancement that the boating community will appreciate, though we will closely monitor developments post the temporary agreement’s expiration.”
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