Council bosses are facing claims that the county's new £121m bridge is contributing to widespread flooding on the Norfolk Broads.

Critics have suggested that the Third River Crossing at Great Yarmouth - officially named the Herring Bridge - is reducing the volume of water that can drain from the waterways.

Eastern Daily Press: The Third River Crossing in Great Yarmouth, also known as the Herring BridgeThe Third River Crossing in Great Yarmouth, also known as the Herring Bridge (Image: Mike Page)

The abutments for the new bridge mean that the width of the Yare has been reduced by more than a third - from 89 metres to 55 metres - close to where it flows into the North Sea.

This is the only outlet for the entire Broads network and people in flood-hit villages claim that the narrower channel means it is taking longer for water levels further upstream to fall.Eastern Daily Press: Flooding at Potter HeighamFlooding at Potter Heigham (Image: James Weeds)

River levels throughout the Broads are currently extremely high, as a result of recent periods of heavy rainfall and spring tides.

It has led to flooding in villages such as Potter Heigham, Horning, Hoveton, Wroxham, Surlingham and Geldeston, with large areas still under water.

People living in the affected area have been questioning whether the new bridge is playing a role.

There has even been a suggestion the council could face a claim for damages from those affected by flooding.

One person, posting anonymously online, said their property on the Bure had rarely flooded until the past three years.

They said: "It is much more than just the odd tide-locking event now, even when the tide drops the water level takes much longer to drop, exposing the risk that more rainfall will raise levels even further before they have returned to normal.

"I and many of my neighbours are already looking at a class action in damages against the council.

"This will be a massive claim and all that was needed to avoid it was for the bridge to be built to span the river properly, rather than narrow the river to build a much cheaper bridge."

Eastern Daily Press: Flooding at Potter HeighamFlooding at Potter Heigham (Image: Mike Page)

However, Norfolk County Council, which oversaw the construction of the bridge, said there had been extensive flood modelling and risk assessments carried out as part of the process which led to the Third River Crossing securing permission.

Officials said unprecedented high tides and rainfall, with the failures of some pumps, was more likely to have caused flooding.

A spokesman said: “We have seen some unprecedented high tides and high rainfall across the UK in recent months, but we are not aware of any live flood investigations or legal action in relation to the Herring Bridge.

"Extensive flood modelling has been carried out throughout the project’s development.

"The extensive rainfall has led to some pump failures due to the high levels of use, which may explain why some communities in the Broads are seeing higher water levels for longer than usual after flooding incidents.

"Our partners at the Internal Drainage Boards already have work underway to replace those pumps affected and ensure water can continue to drain away effectively."

While the Herring Bridge opened to river traffic this week, it will not open to cars until next year, after the discovery of an unexploded bomb and a vole burrow caused delays.

Eastern Daily Press: Paul Rice, senior flood warden at Potter HeighamPaul Rice, senior flood warden at Potter Heigham (Image: James Weeds)

READ MORE: Norfolk flood reports double in space of a year amid storms



Paul Rice, a senior flood warden at Potter Heigham, which has suffered from flooding in recent weeks, said: "I have heard that people have been suggesting it is connected to the new bridge.

"I'm not a hydrology expert, but what I do think is that if you do anything to a navigation channel that will have some sort of impact.

But he said there were other significant factors to blame for flooding at Potter.

He said: "I think the failure to keep some of ditches and dykes clear played more of a part in that.

"If water flows slowly, that causes silt to build up and if you don't clear that silt, that can cause problems."

The flooding in Potter came as Storm Ciarán coincided with high water levels on the Thurne.

Coldham Hall pub, on the Yare in Surlingham, had to close twice last week due to rising tides and flood water, with supplies having to be delivered by canoe.

Eastern Daily Press: Deliveries to Coldham Hall pub were made by canoeDeliveries to Coldham Hall pub were made by canoe (Image: Coldham Hall)

And the Geldeston Locks Inn, on the Waveney near Beccles, had to shut for a number of days because of floodwater.

Last month, the UK saw one of its wettest Octobers on record. The 171.5mm of rain that fell was a third more than the average for that time of year.

In east Norfolk, 11 inches - more than twice the previous monthly rainfall total - was recorded.