Plans for direct elections to the Broads Authority have been dropped

Spring weather on the Norfolk Broads. A boat on the River Bure at Upton. April 2015. Picture: James

Spring weather on the Norfolk Broads. A boat on the River Bure at Upton. April 2015. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

The Conservatives will not change the law to allow direct elections to the Broads Authority.

In a debate today, environment minister Rory Stewart said the democratic element was already served, and revealed the plans unveiled last year for a new law had been dropped.

Norfolk and Suffolk MPs raised concerns about the governance of the Broads during a half-hour debate on the topic in Westminster Hall.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson, who secured the debate, said direct elections would make the Broads Authority more accountable and encourage people who have a real genuine interest to get involved in the Broads.

Last year's Queen's Speech, under the previous coalition Government, included plans to change the law to bring in direct elections for National Parks and the Broads. But it was not included in this year's Queen's Speech following the election of a Conservative majority.

The debate also came after the Broads has been controversially re-branded as a National Park, raising concerns about whether the area would be governed by the same more-restrictive planning rules of other National Parks.

Mr Stewart, who was appointed as minister following the General Election, said: 'The Government does not intend to bring forward the legislation which the right honourable gentleman [Keith Simpson] mentioned.

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'That is both because it would not achieve the intention of the right honourable member [Keith Simpson], which is to get people who are involved in boats and navigation onto the board.'

He said that the two most recent appointments to the Broads Authority by the Government had been people who had boat licences.

He claimed that the 'democratic element' of the Broads Authority was served by the fact that the majority of people on the Broads Authority were elected representatives.

He also reiterated that the Broads 'is not legally a National Park and does not come under the National Park legislation, nor will it become part of the National Park legislation'.

'We are very comfortable with the Broads describing themselves as a National Park, but this is essentially to express some common sense terms to the public that this is a protected landscape which has many of the qualities of other National Parks,' he said.