Research reveals areas at risk of floods

It's very much a worst-case scenario and flood officers insist there is no need to panic, but this map shows the vulnerability of one stretch of the Norfolk coast to a breach in its sea defences.

It's very much a worst-case scenario and flood officers insist there is no need to panic, but this map shows the vulnerability of one stretch of the Norfolk coast to a breach in its sea defences.

The calculations were made by Norfolk-based chartered architect Rodney Hale-Sutton, who regularly submits flood risk assessments as part of planning applications for new homes.

His findings show that huge swathes of land could be covered by water in the event of a breach of the coastal sea defences - enveloping much of the Broads and putting several villages at risk.

It may seem like a doomsday scenario, but it becomes all the more real when you consider the Environment Agency has been forced to shelve plans to strengthen the sea defences along its most vulnerable stretch between Eccles and Winterton because of a cut in funding.

The agency insists the defences are in a stable condition, but admits any breach could rapidly change the situation and lead to major flooding.

For Mr Hale-Sutton, who runs his own business in Hoveton St John, his findings produce worrying reading, which he hopes will make politicians at a local and national level sit up and take notice.

Most Read

"It is my opinion that far greater priority should be given to continual repair and strengthening of the sea defences in this part of Norfolk and in other areas which are at risk," he said.

"If nothing is done to look after the sea defences, there are areas that will become permanently under water. Nobody seems to be speaking out.

"We really need to make people aware of these problems and try to get some sort of petition going and get local MPs involved. What we are talking about is the loss of all these very important Broads areas."

Mr Hale-Sutton drew up the map in relation to a planning application to build homes in West Somerton and uses complicated formulae to plot which areas would be vulnerable to flooding in the event of a breach of sea defences.

In simple terms, a possible site for a breach of sea defences - in this case Winterton Ness - is identified and then an Ordnance Survey map is used to highlight low-lying areas of land which would be susceptible to the flow of the water.

Mr Hale-Sutton, who stressed his findings were very much a worst-case scenario, explained that for the purposes of the calculation, a breach was assumed to have happened at high tide and would not be repaired for at least 48 hours.

He added: "If there should be breaches in the sea defences at some point in the future, when there are higher sea levels and higher tides combined with northerly winds, then huge areas of this part of Norfolk would flood.

"The assessments that we have produced indicate that an area from a point just east of Ingham, down as far as the hills around Winterton and inland over Horsey Mere, Hickling Broad and Heigham Sound, would be covered in water to a depth on average of about half a metre.

"A lot of it depends on how long it takes them to repair the breaches, but within 48 hours, the water could come down as far as Potter Heigham.

"We need to be saying that it's not good enough; we don't want to lose our countryside and we don't want to lose the Broads. It would wipe out such a lot.

"The attitude seems to be, 'Yes, we'll repair the breaches, but ultimately the sea will take over'. That may be in 30-40 years' time but nobody knows what is going to happen."