They are calling it the Haven Bridge blockade.

Boaters say they have been marooned on the Norfolk Broads because the operators of the Great Yarmouth crossing are refusing to open it to give them access to the open sea beyond.

Peel Ports says the closure is for an undisclosed and disputed 'safety' issue.

But the move has angered boating groups who have called in the local MP, Brandon Lewis, to try to navigate a course through the dispute.

They say the blockade is the latest in a series of long-running issues they have faced with the bridge and have warned that unless it is resolved, the region's crucial boating sector will suffer.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The boaters have asked Sir Brandon Lewis to step in.The boaters have asked Sir Brandon Lewis to step in. FIRST STIRRINGS OF DISPUTE

The roots of the dispute go back to February 2021, when work to permanently repair the 94-year-old Haven Bridge - which carries one of the busies roads into Yarmouth - began.

Before then, the bridge's outdated systems caused havoc to both road and river traffic, as it frequently got stuck.

The work was scheduled to take months, but the ongoing pandemic delayed the project by almost three years.

While this was ongoing, leisure craft were unable to pass.

READ MORE: Great Yarmouth Haven Bridge chaos as people try to barge across it

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Works replacing the outdated mechanisms at Haven Bridge took three years.Works replacing the outdated mechanisms at Haven Bridge took three years. (Image: Newsquest)At the beginning of this year, boats were once again allowed passage - but with a catch.

Peel Ports introduced a £20 each-way transit fee and restricted bridge lifting to two fixed times each day.

This was different to the previous system, which enabled boaters to arrange their passage in advance with the operators.

The new, strict timetable meant they now had to make their passage regardless of tides and weather conditions - with boaters saying this significantly increased the dangers for them.

Weeks later Peel Ports again imposed a complete halt on passage for leisure craft.



Neither Peel Ports nor Norfolk County Council, the bridge's owner, have been able to give a clear explanation as to why the blockade has been reintroduced and whether it is due to the concerns raised by boaters over the timetable arrangements.

Peel said it was unable to comment on the reasons for the crossing being out of action for leisure craft - as that was a matter for the council.

However, a Peel spokesman said: “The key issue here is the safety of those who use the river and the bridge, and some members of the public have rightly expressed concerns about this."

The spokesman maintained that the operators continued to support the council "by not lifting the bridge to ensure safety is the highest priority".

He added that both parties are developing a risk assessment to solve the undisclosed issue.

But Norfolk County Council said there were no issues with safety at the bridge.

A spokesman said: “Peel Ports have a statutory duty to operate the bridge. We are currently in discussions with Peel Ports regarding the resumption of lifting at Haven Bridge and we hope to find a resolution in the coming weeks.

"This comes after the completion of significant improvement work last year.

"The bridge remains safe and fully functional but outstanding procedural matters need to be resolved in order for its operation to resume. We are currently working with Peel to bring the bridge back into use as soon as possible."



Resistance to the blockade is being led by the Broom Owners Club, for people who sail sea-going motor cruisers built at Brooms boatyard in Brundall.

Paul Bates, its eastern region co-ordinator, said: "The bridge is designed to lift to give vessels access to the sea. Frankly, Norfolk County Council shouldn't have spent the millions that they did if there was the intention to just keep it closed."

He said that if that was the plan, the sea-going boating community should have been informed so they could decide whether to leave the Broads.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: A huge turnout of Norfolk-built boats lined up at Beccles Quay.A huge turnout of Norfolk-built boats lined up at Beccles Quay. (Image: Broom Owners Club)"Nobody wants that," he added. "The Broads has such a long history with the boating community and it survives on that

"It's a valuable part of Norfolk."

Former regional co-ordinator Peter Ward added that the thousands of people belonging to the boating community contributed a huge amount to Norfolk's economy each year by way of sales, repairs, food and drink and moorings.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Repairs to the road surface at Haven Bridge.Repairs to the road surface at Haven Bridge. (Image: Newsquest)

"We appreciate that restricting bridge lift times around peak traffic times is vital and we accept that. But by putting just two lifts four hours apart, we look at tide and weather as some of the biggest safety points when we go to sea. 

"Vessels are having to transfer out of Great Yarmouth at sub-optimal times and potentially endangering the vessel and the crew. We do not want anyone endangered."

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Norfolk County Hall.Norfolk County Hall. (Image: Archant)


There is a way around the Haven Bridge blockade, but it has its drawbacks.

Boaters have had to resort to taking the River Waveney down to Oulton Broad and then leaving the Broads via Mutford Lock, before sailing down Lake Lothing and out to sea at Lowestoft.

However, the group says that while a trip via Great Yarmouth takes around four hours, the Lowestoft route can take up to 24 hours due to the strict timetable at Mutfolk Lock.Great Yarmouth Mercury: Mutford Lock from the sky.Mutford Lock from the sky. (Image: Mike Page)