Legal battle over flood defences on Carlton Marshes near Lowestoft

A long-running dispute over plans to build flood defences on marshland near Lowestoft remains ongoing - despite a High Court ruling to overturn planning permission.

The Environment Agency (EA) has been carrying out improvements to Carlton Marshes, a site in the Waveney Valley at the southern tip of the Norfolk Broads, since 2004.

In July last year, the Broads Authority granted the EA permission to carry out 'Phase 2' of the work which included improvements to flood defences near Peto's Marsh - an 80 hectare site within Carlton Marshes - and building a 'crosswall' allowing agricultural vehicles to pass over the new defensive flood banks.

The development would have seen the agency abandon existing defences around Peto's Marsh.

Landowners U & Partners (East Anglia) Ltd, who use Peto's Marsh for arable farming, challenged the decision and sought a judicial review.

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The company claimed the development would expose their land to a greater risk of flooding and impact their ability to farm.

Last month, a High Court judge found in favour of U & Partners and quashed the planning permission.

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At the two-day hearing in London Mr Justice Collins concluded that the Broads Authority had breached the requirements of a European Directive by significantly miscalculating the size of the area covered by the proposed defences – and claiming there was no need for environmental assessment of a 1 hectare site when it was actually 4.2 hectares.

The judge also ruled that although the landowners claim was 'not brought promptly', the delay in starting the judicial review would not weigh against them.

David Merson, head of planning at Steeles Law - the Norwich firm representing U & Partners, said the decision on timing was particularly important. He said: 'It has set a precedent for the future as to the time limits in bringing Judicial Review proceedings. Readers will observe that Mr Justice Collins proposes a significant change to the legislation and civil procedure rules which could, if adopted, severely impact on a claimant's ability to mount such challenges in the future.'

But yesterday, the Environment Agency revealed it will now revise and resubmit its planning application.

A spokesman said: 'The application will include a full Environmental Statement. We will continue to liaise with the landowners and are hopeful that the final scheme will address all the concerns that they have raised.

'The purpose of these works is to complete the improvements of flood defences to Barnby, Carlton and Share Marshes. The defended area includes property, agricultural land and designated conservations sites including the Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Whitecast Marshes.'

A spokesman for the wildlife trust said: 'Building flood banks secures the longterm future of internationally important freshwater habitats. It also secures farming incomes of our tenant and neighbouring farmers.'

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