Landmark £140m flood prevention project concludes after 20 years

An aerial shot of the River Yare after construction of new, EA-funded set-back banks. 

An aerial shot of the River Yare after construction of new, EA-funded set-back banks. - Credit: Mike Page

A 20-year project to improve and maintain 240km of flood defences for towns and villages in and around the Norfolk Broads has reached its conclusion.

According to the Environment Agency (EA), which has funded the £140m Broadland Flood Alleviation Project, almost 2,000 homes, businesses and vital transport links are now better protected from three local rivers: the Yare, Bure and Waveney.

Improved facilities for anglers, boaters and walkers have also been developed through the project - the final phase of which was marked by the completion of piling works at Burgh Castle.

Banks were moved at Ludham Bridge by the EA as a measure to reduce flooding.

Banks were moved at Ludham Bridge by the EA as a measure to reduce flooding. - Credit: Supplied by Environment Agency

Some 1,700 properties and five previously undefended communities are now better protected from flooding, while the A47 and Norwich-Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft railway lines are also better defended.

The project has also seen 30,000ha of land become less at risk of flooding, including 24,000ha of prime agricultural land and 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, while there has been a 200pc increase in the number of nationally endangered water voles over the project’s two decades. 

EA project manager Paul Mitchelmore said: “This project has given us a unique opportunity to extend the life of these flood defences, and help to preserve the special qualities of the Broads. 

The river around Horsey Mill has benefitted from strengthened banks

The river around Horsey Mill has benefitted from strengthened banks - Credit: Supplied by Environment Agency

“We now have a more sustainable flood defence system which will reduce the burden on future generations for its upkeep.”

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The Broads were hit by widespread flooding in 1953. Since the start of the project, tidal flood events have happened in 2006, 2007, 2013 and 2014, with 1953 levels exceeded on at least two occasions.

During these floods, there has been some bank-overtopping, but according to the EA, fewer breaches have occurred overall.

The EA said that although a small number of riverside businesses and houses have continued to flood, flooding is usually confined to agricultural land.

John Goldie, store manager at Lathams of Potter Heigham, said the shop experiences flooding every winter. 

Lathams at Potter Heigham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Lathams at Potter Heigham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

“Every year, we know it's going to happen. We have to raise stock off the floor. We have to sandbag up at the front, when we know there’s a high tide, not that that really does any good.”

Mr Goldie said the shop had worked positively with the EA. 

“We work hand in hand with the Environment Agency… We have alerts come through when there’s high tide so it's just a case of watching the high tide and trying to do everything we can, but there’s not a great deal.”

Meanwhile at the southern end of the Broads, in Reedham, Colin Sanderson - who runs boat-hire company Sanderson Marine Crafts Ltd - said of the flooding he continues to experience: “If the tide is high, you just have to get on and deal with it. It comes up and it will eventually go down again, within hours rather than weeks, that sort of thing, but we're definitely getting higher tides, without a shadow of a doubt."

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham at high tide where the river water regul

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham at high tide - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

He said the public quay at Reedham is regularly flooded, and he has had to raise his own quay.
 
"Fortunately, the flood defences do deflect it a bit, but the flood defences are not brilliant,” said Mr Sanderson.

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham at high tide where the river water regul

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham at high tide - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“The water comes up the drains onto the road and then comes at us from the back.” 
 
He claimed the EA were “not interested.” 
 
“They're responsible for it. I wouldn't mind a quid for every time they've been told.
 
“There's little or nothing you can do to stop it. But you just put your wellies on and get on with it. 

One of the environment agency-funded flood defence gates at Reedham quay. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

One of the environment agency-funded flood defence gates at Reedham quay. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Constructed in 2002, the defences at Reedham were among the first installed as part of the project. 
 
“It was their showpiece one. While it looked very good, it never actually worked ever so well to start with. They've done a few modifications since, but in my opinion not enough,” said Mr Sanderson.

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham, with one of the environment agency-fund

Colin Sanderson, owner of Sanderson Marine Craft at Reedham, with one of the environment agency-funded flood defence gates at his premises. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

An EA spokesman said the agency continues to be interested in ensuring the effectiveness of the defences, but that surface water flooding was a matter for the lead local authority: Norfolk County Council. 
 
County councillor Richard Price, who represents the South Smallburgh division covering much of the Broads, said the council’s teams were working “tremendously hard” to resolve flood issues when alerted to them. 

Richard Price, Conservative candidate for Happisburgh in the 2019 North Norfolk District Council ele

Conservative county councillor for South Smallburgh Richard Price - Credit: Supplied by Richard Price


He added that Lord Richard Dannatt was making “a huge difference” through his Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance. 

Looking to the future, the EA said the Broads will be eligible for potential funding through the national capital programme 2021-2027, a programme which will see the government invest a record £5.2 billion in flood and coastal defences – double the previous investment – to better protect 336,000 properties.

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