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A key decision on flood prevention

PUBLISHED: 08:57 06 February 2008 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 July 2010

PLANS have been submitted for major flood defence work along the southern bank of the River Bure designed to protect precious marshland habitats as well as the A47 and railway line into Yarmouth.

PLANS have been submitted for major flood defence work along the southern bank of the River Bure designed to protect precious marshland habitats as well as the A47 and railway line into Yarmouth.

The scheme - the biggest to date in a £120m, 20-year project to safeguard large areas of the Broads - will run along a 16km stretch of river bank from Acle dyke to the outskirts of Yarmouth, and also safeguard several of the area's landmark former drainage mills.

The Broads Authority's planning committee is being recommended to approve the work, scheduled to take four years, when it meets on Friday.

Paul Mitchelmore, project manager for the Environment Agency, which is funding the programme being carried out by Halcrow and Nuttall, said the latest proposals incorp-orated a range of techniques already used successfully on other areas of the Broads.

These included strengthening and raising the existing bank in some places while building a new bank 30m back on other stretches.

He said moving the bank back had the advantage of being able to do away with steel piles which was beneficial on aesthetic as well as cost grounds.

The piling could then be replaced by the natural protection of a new reed bed which had proved to be an ecological success on earlier sections of the project.

“At other locations, surveys have shown it has led to an increase in such wildlife as marsh harriers and reed warblers,” he said.

“When we started out on the project in 2001, an initial concern was how quickly the environment would recover. But we have generally found the vegetation returns within one growing season.”

Mr Mitchelmore said that without the improvements there would be a growing threat of floodbanks failing at times of high water, permitting saline river water to burst through on to the freshwater marshland. Apart from the ecological impact, this could also disrupt the nearby railway and A47.

He said: “The defences were tested to their limit during the flooding in November and there was some overtopping by the road near the former Stracey Arms. But the disaster would come if the river burst through the bank.”

One reason the work would take so long was that measures would have to be constantly taken to safeguard a colony of common lizards which were protected by law.

In some cases, this would involve locating the lizards and removing them to a safe place before digging could start.

Over the years 240km of river bank will be protected by the project. Part of the scheme also involves improving village defences and new protection measures have already been provided for Reedham, St Olaves and Brundall.

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