Environment Agency warns of ‘difficult decisions’ ahead on Broads flooding
PUBLISHED: 08:08 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 10 March 2020
Ian Burt/James Bass/Neil Didsbury
The Environment Agency has warned difficult decisions lie ahead for the Broads as it seeks views on how to protect it from flooding.
The contract to strengthen the Broads flood defences ends next year, and the Agency has not yet decided what will replace it.
It has launched a partnership called Broadland Futures Initiative (BFI) to hear from people about how best to protect the low-lying region from future sea level rises.
In 2008 the then boss of the Agency warned that the Broads would be lost to sea within 100 years.
At the same time Natural England said it was considering whether to abandon parts of the Broads to flooding, including Potter Heigham, Hickling, Horsey, Winterton and Sea Palling.
It would ruin Norfolk's tourism industry, but when asked last week if abandoning areas of the Broads was still an option, an Agency spokesman said: 'It is important for society as a whole to think about the impacts of a changing climate when planning for the future.'
Kellie Fisher, senior advisor for the Environment Agency in East Anglia, said the BFI was not looking to abandon any places but she said sea level rises were a 'major threat'.
'We do need to take climate change incredibly seriously and we will need to make some difficult decisions,' she added.
Ms Fisher said the BFI would act as a forum for people to have their say and would put 'democracy at the heart of decision making'.
The Agency said its flood alleviation programme on the Broads, which has run since 2001, had been a success and prepared the area well for flooding, but they added: 'We will experience a continued rise in sea level well into the next century. This will significantly affect our coastline and those that live, work and play along it.'
As reported yesterday, some businesses have said they feel abandoned by flood defences.
George Elliott from Ludham Boatyard has spent most of the winter flooded and said defences needed to be strengthened.
A £100m flood barrier is currently being built at Boston and a new barrier at Ipswich was opened in 2019.
But the Agency said it wanted to promote 'climate change resilience' over building lots of hard flood defences.
Launching a new flood defence strategy last year, Agency chair Emma Howard said the 'war against water' could not be won by building higher flood defences.
Instead she called for a new approach to make communities resilient to the threat of flooding.
This would include better warning systems and preparation.
Asked whether the Agency would push for a flood barrier to protect the Broads, a spokesman said: 'It's not possible to stop flooding in its entirety at all locations.
'Whilst there is a place for large barriers, like in Boston and Ipswich, the majority of flood and coastal erosion schemes tend to feature a mixture of hard and soft engineering and natural flood management.
'This can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to manage flood and coastal erosion risk alongside traditional engineering, while creating habitat for wildlife and helping regenerate rural and urban areas through tourism.'
Campaign group the Broads Society pushed for a flood barrier across the Yare in the early 1990s, but instead authorities opted to strengthen existing defences.
A spokesman for the Society said: 'The bank strengthening and rebuilding that has taken place throughout the Broads has been very effective, but put simply, the water now has nowhere to go.
'Dredging, although taking place, is not carried out on the scale of previous decades and is unlikely to keep pace with sediment which exacerbates the problem.'
They added: 'These sustained high levels will have serious effects on the boat hire industry, small businesses, shops and boatyards which remain largely 'undefended'.
'We believe more help and advice should be afforded to the owners of these properties many of which add greatly to the economy of the area and who we believe, are largely being ignored.'
The Agency said it wanted as many people as possible to share their views on flooding through the Broadland Futures Initiative
To take part in Broadland Futures Initiative visit: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bfifloodmodelsurvey