Work on contentious £4m Hoveton Great Broad restoration project expected to begin in summer
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Work on a divisive multi-million pound lottery project to improve water quality at a private broad will begin in the next few months.
The £4m Natural England scheme promises to turn the murky Hoveton Great Broad into a clear water haven to boost biodiversity.
But sailors argue the use of almost £2m in lottery cash and more than £2m in EU funding should not be spent on a private stretch - and instead should come with a caveat that the broad will be opened up for public enjoyment.
Landowner Tom Blofeld and Natural England have in the past said the 25-year project is intended to protect the area's tranquillity and that regular use could disturb its diverse wildlife.
Now, Natural England, which has signed a lease for the broad until 2040, has confirmed it is in the process of putting together a team, with initial work expected to start over summer and the lake restoration to begin in October.
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The row has garnered the attention of North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who earlier this year wrote to minister for heritage Tracey Crouch calling for answers.
In a letter of response, Mrs Crouch said: 'I understand the increasing access for public is not the primary purpose of Natural England's project... However, the project will, in the view of HLF, deliver greater access to the site than is currently available.'
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Main elements of the work include installing temporary fish barriers, removing sediment and introducing canoe trails and controlled boat trips.
But objectors say the measures are not enough, with more than 1,400 signatures on an online petition calling on the government to fully open the broad.
Sue Hines, who set up the petition, said: 'No-one is against the work on the broad as it does need to be done, but it is an awful lot of money that's being given to a privately owned area for something that the public will see little benefit from.'
The protected broad - which closed more than 100 years ago and is still unreachable from the river - lies in the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve, part of the Bure Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest.
HLF and The EU LIFE programme will fund the scheme until 2020, with HLF then covering a further five years of maintenance.
Do you have a Broads story for us? Email Broads correspondent Lauren Cope on firstname.lastname@example.org