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‘Absurd and disastrous’: legal challenge to bid to block fish from broad

PUBLISHED: 09:17 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 06:57 20 October 2020

The Environment Agency has granted Natural England a permit to place fish barriers across the entrances to Hoveton Great Broad as part of a restoration project to improve the broad’s ecology.. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Environment Agency has granted Natural England a permit to place fish barriers across the entrances to Hoveton Great Broad as part of a restoration project to improve the broad’s ecology.. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Angry anglers have launched a legal challenge over controversial barriers which they fear would reduce fish breeding grounds in the Broads.

Kelvin Allen, chairman of Broads Angling Services Group: Picture: Simon FinlayKelvin Allen, chairman of Broads Angling Services Group: Picture: Simon Finlay

Acting on behalf of the Angling Trust and the Broads Angling Services Group, solicitors at Fish Legal have issued the challenge against the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England decision to put in barriers to block off spawning grounds in Hoveton Great Broad.

The EA granted Natural England a permit to place the infrastructure in July as part of a restoration project to improve the Broad’s ecology over the next 10 years by removing the majority of fish from the broad to allow water fleas to thrive who will then feed on the algae.

Part of the application for a judicial review of the decision to install barriers is based on the EA ignoring the advice of their own specialists, according to the Angling Trust which put in a Freedom of Information request.

The request revealed the EA’s views from its fisheries, biodiversity and geomorphology team in East Anglia which stated: “The proposed biomanipulation methodology, involving the installation of fish proof barriers to prevent fish accessing the habitats currently found within HGB [Hoveton Great Broad] carries a high risk of detrimental impacts to the fish populations of both HGB and the Northern Broads system.”

MORE: Army of anglers fights Environment Agency over barrier to block fish from broad

Natural England gave an assurance that it would not go ahead if there was a “significant impact on fish”.

The organisations have 21 days to respond to the legal challenge.

Martin Salter, head of policy at the Angling Trust, described the decision by the EA and Natural England to approve the barriers as “palpably absurd” and an “environmentally disastrous decision”.

He said: “It’s a shame it has come to this...Their evidence showed that the proposed barriers would be harmful to the recruitment of bream stocks in the Northern Broads. Bream are one of the iconic species upon which the £100 million angling economy of the Norfolk Broads depends and we trust that the courts will agree and put an end to this nonsense once and for all.”

MORE: Fish barriers to be installed on Norfolk broad

Kelvin Allen, chairman of Broads Angling Services Group, said: “The internal papers from Natural England show their true colours and objectives. Let’s give the fish a voice for once.”

A Natural England spokesperson said: “The Broads are an iconic feature of the English landscape, and we are working hard to nurture and improve these vital habitats by driving biodiversity and improving water quality.

“As part of this work, and following a public consultation with local stakeholders, we were granted a permit by the Environment Agency to deliver a project which would restore Hoveton Great Broad to better water quality and a more natural ecology - including a more diverse fish community which is resilient to any climate change impacts.”

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