Topic: Is it a fair comparison?

Paladine    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 11:20 AM
Is it actually fair to compare the performances of Professor Aitken Clark and Doctor John Packman? The former is often held up as the saviour of the Broads, while the latter is cast as the villain, bent on its destruction.

The reason I ask ‘Is it a fair comparison?’ is because Prof. Aitken Clark, who was the Broads Authority (pre-rebranding!) CEO from 1979 – 2001, spent the first 10 or 11 years of his tenure in relative safety from the glare of publicity. The World Wide Web only really started around 1990, by which time his feet were well and truly under the table.  There were no Internet forums, minutes of meetings weren’t available on-line, no email servers through which to submit complaints or FoI requests. That there might not have been much public criticism could be down to the lack of transparency.

His successor, Dr. John Packman, on the other hand, has had the spotlight shone on him from Day 1.

Prof. Aitken Clark was well known as a conservator, being awarded an OBE and the Delta D’Oro (a Spanish award) for his work and there is no doubt, under his tenure, the Broads was saved from becoming a polluted quagmire. However, he was also a firm believer in electric boats, and introduced the white elephant known as ‘Ra’.

Maybe, in some future century, electric boats (electric everything) will become the norm, but we can already see how that idea (perpetuated by Dr. John Packman) has influenced modern Broads hire boat design, not for the better, in my opinion.

Yet, now, conservation is thought by some to be a dirty word. The Internet has enabled organisations (not just the Broads No-Authority) to be put under close and continual scrutiny. Would Professor Clark have been able to stand up to such public scrutiny?

Who knows – it didn’t happen, but we are where we are and looking back through rose-tinted glasses doesn’t change what is happening today.

Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

TerryTibbs    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 12:26 PM
  Fair point Pally, but Packman has courted publicity and used the internet and technology to try to further his ambitions both personally and politically, so his judgement on forums and social media is totally justified in my opinion. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.
As you said under the previous incumbent the general situation improved and there were positive changes to environment and the infrastructure, can the same be said about Packmans reign?


if it is to be it is up to me.

Cocklegat    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 1:08 PM
  A modern history of Broads conservation can't be fully appreciated without reference to Aitken Clark along with Martin George and John Packman.
Various bodies should also be taken into consideration such as The Broads Society, one of the original umbrella organisations raising awareness of the serious problems facing the Broads.  All this sits on the historical background of the original 'authority' The Port & Haven Commissioners. Their  main interest being navigation & drainage.
There has always been a conflict between boating interests and conservation and I can't see that changing. The present management is under additional pressures today, such as those from modern marketing of tourism along with the ever increasing demands to allow built development.  
The Broads Authority must maintain strict aberrance to:
'Conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Broads
Promoting opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Broads by the public
Protecting the interests of navigation.'
Unfortunately it dos'ent always appear to! Hence the many dents to its 'Authority'
Aitkin Clark was the author of 'What future Broadland in 1982, here the Authority clearly states the importance of recreational boating and points out the delicate balance between this and conservation.He also helped form one of the original volunteer groups to help clear scrub from the riverbanks which not only helps wildlife but also helps Navigation (Broadsword). Martin George of course wrote the definitive book The land use, ecology & conservation of Broadland.

JollyRodger    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 1:51 PM
  Some good and relevant comments so far. The Worldwide web is an obvious component, both positive and negative where the BA is concerned. My feeling is that Dr Packman had not considered its impact at the time of the Broads Bill. To this day I don't think that he has really understood its implications in regard to openness and trust, as a social tool. Yes, he does use it in his quest for NP recognition but it is a very one-sided affair.

I really don't think that Aitken Clark particularly benefited from a lack of the web. Back in time, the Broads community was very much a part and parcel of the Authority and its various committees. Regretfully such people have seemingly been purged from the BA in JP's time. On top of that, the Prof was entirely open and easily carried most people along with him. He and Dr Packman are very different people. Of course, he had his critics, who haven't, but by and large, he was trusted. Back in time I was involved in a local Broads area consultative and met AC several times, as did my father who in turn was involved in the creation of the Authority and also involved in several Broads related bodies.

Jolly Roger

Paladine    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 2:04 PM
"Back in time, the Broads community was very much a part and parcel of the Authority and its various committees"

Back in time, the 'Broads community' had a very different composition. The hire companies dominated. Private owners were few and far between and I doubt if they had much of a voice. It sounds as if it was quite a comfortable 'club' in those days.

How times have changed. Many, many more private owners now, who demand a standard of service and transparency that didn't exist all those years ago.

Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

Cocklegat    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 2:35 PM
  Are we talking about The Broads or Boat owners....on the Broads?
In the last 60 years boat owning has become hugely more expensive. Yet today there are more private boat owners than ever before. This would seem to demonstrate the pressure on the river systems and the problem of retaining their attraction as both a pleasant boating location while at the same time keeping  features worth conserving. Wealthy boat owners may feel that costs and tolls dictate that they should have precedence over where the money is spent, yet is that correct? Little money can be generated directly from a rare marsh orchid or swallowtail butterfly while tolls are easily gathered. Spending money on navigation does happen but we should never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Paladine    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 4:44 PM
The topic is actually whether the comparison between two CEOs is fair, given the disparity of the respective prevailing conditions of their tenure.

But I would suggest that having more private owners actually puts less of a strain on the river systems, not more. ‘Back in the day’, as we are constantly reminded, double, even triple, mooring was commonplace, due to the number of hire craft. That pendulum has now swung the other way, and private boats, which are now much more numerous than hire boats, are used much, much less than hire boats, over the year.

HMG provides the money for the marsh orchids and swallowtails (not quite true, as the land/marsh on which they thrive is predominately in private hands). But the government grant is both finite and controlled, even reduced, by the government. The BNA has had to look to Europe for grants to carry out some of its projects, grants which will now have dried up. So economies would be expected, to try to save money. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that. For example, the staffing numbers just keep increasing, and it is common knowledge that staffing is usually the biggest expense of any organisation.

On the other hand, tolls are easy – just put them up every year. No need to make any economies, the toll payers will cough up, and there seems to be ways of putting some of that money into other than strictly navigating expenses.

Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

Cocklegat    -- Jan-7-2022 @ 10:19 PM
  I think that's all pretty much true.

JollyRodger    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 10:59 AM
  Some interesting comments.

My relevant experience and that of my father date back to when the Broads was reopened after WW2. Dad had dome his bit, as much as he could because he was declared medically unfit to serve despite which he did manage to go to Dunkirk and eventually the D-Day beaches. He did his duty as best he could but was a baker, owning several shops and a bakery. He had a good war, as the saying goes. What he, and others saw, was a need to kick restart the local economy. Dad, and his father, were both keen anglers and sailors, inevitably perhaps, dad decided to invest in his boating interest, he ordered six yachts of a local class. The idea being that he would have a new boat and he would sell the others. Others folk, having returned from the war, some ex POWS with money to invest, followed dad's example thus the hire fleets returned to the Broads. The rest is obviously history and eventually hireboats became ex hireboats, a situation that flourished as the economy grew and package holidays gained dominance. The Broads has never ceased developing. That happened back in Prof Clark's days just as it is happening in Dr Packman's, that has not changed.

Conservation and preservation have long been a part of the Broads culture. Apart from the Carlton Marshes all the main nature reserves predate the Authority. As for preservation the Wherry Trust, for example, also predate the Authority.

What I am suggesting is that both preservation and conservation have flourished in Broadland and probably would have done so despite the presence of the Authority of today.

In the past, the Broads was very much a club, the members being those of us who live and play here, and many of those who play live across Britain. The Professor clearly realised that and he chose to be a member. On the other hand, I suggest, the Doctor chose to turn his back on the much-maligned 'little people' and there lies the problem. Broads folk learned to trust the Professor, we have learned to distrust his successor.

Is it fair to compare the Doctor with the Professor? Yes, Broadland has developed but it is still the same Broads.  

Jolly Roger

Cocklegat    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 12:05 PM
  Some good comments. After all the Broads are an area which has always been rapidly changing. You can't imagine a place more shaped by man, nor a place that has always been in the vanguard of geological change. This will continue and the present guardians of Broadland are only transient and will be replaced as circumstances change. The present Authority has taken on more roles than previous incumbents and is stifled by its own bureaucracy. This along with the different agencies involved make clear decision making very difficult. All that said there are many things that the BA got right so I for one won't condemn the whole organisation.

This message was edited by Cocklegat on Jan-8-22 @ 1:06 PM

JollyRodger    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 5:20 PM
  "All that said there are many things that the BA got right so I for one won't condemn the whole organisation."

Agreed. However, some very good staff have moved on. The same can be said of both committee and Authority members.

Jolly Roger

Marshman    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 9:06 PM
  Indeed - though of course I expect the same can be said of every company under the sun!!! If I had a quid every time someone said "..he/she is completely indispensable.." and when they are gone, you find that that is not totally true!!!!! Often in fact, you find the exact opposite!!

JollyRodger    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 9:42 PM
  Strangely enough, I have one particular person in mind!

Jolly Roger

Helmsman1946    -- Jan-8-2022 @ 10:24 PM
  Since my first visit in the early 1970s (see avatar} the Broads have certainly evolved I have a copy of the Broads Plan 1987 and the current version(currently under revision) I doubt National Parks UK ( The Umbrella grouping for the National Parks) was up & running where the CEOs are in frequent contact with all the implications of that. All of the NPs are under different legislation & even the Lake District with more craft than BA is not the Registration Authority. If you follow other NPs it is clear there is or certainly been genuine or perceived falling outs ( for want of a better description) between their Board Members and of course Friends Groups & Societies and residents. I have seen it pointed out "Be careful of what you wish for"
The anticipated publication of the next stage of the Landscape Review in the near future may just may bring some changes Hopefully there will be the opportunity for consultation.

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