Saturday, 29 March 2008

Secret Broads plan leaked to papers

Reports discussed at a secret meeting which recommended allowing some of Norfolk's finest fisheries to be flooded by the sea have been leaked to local papers.

Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Broads Authority met last month for talks on the future of the Upper Thurne and its broads.

They decided the sea should be allowed to breach coastal defences, flooding Hickling Broad, Horsey Mere, Heigham Sound and the Martham broads.

As the story hit the national media, officials claimed the plan was just one of four options under consideration.

A report in the Lowestoft Journal newspaper, said to be quoting from a leaked copy of the plan, claimed:

"The first option listed is to do nothing to adapt to climate change: to fail to maintain coastal defences and inland flood embankments, allowing them to fall into disrepair and be breached by the River Thurne and the sea.

"The second is to hold the line, the current policy of the Environment Agency. This involves maintaining the sea defences and flood embankments in their current positions. Under this option, saline intrusion - something all farmers fear - would get worse as sea water passes under the coastal dunes.

"The third option is to adapt the line: allow the sea to flood some places while building barriers and embankments to protect other parts.

"The fourth and final option is the most radical of all, and is described as the “embayment of the Upper Thurne”. Once the sea has penetrated existing coastal defences between Horsey and Winterton, the area immediately behind would flood as far as two “retreated defences” - think of them as sea walls, or even dams - built at Potter Heigham and Stalham."

Nearly 300 people have signed an online petition set up by the Pike Anglers Club, which has campaigned to protect the pike and pike fishing for more than 30 years.

As well as fisheries which have produced some of the largest wild pike ever caught in the British Isles, including three fish over 40lbs, the proposals would see the loss of internationally-important nature reserves, six villages and thousands of homes.

A Natural England spokeswoman quoted on The Times' website said the government-backed conservation quango wanted to start a debate over the plans and the best way forward for the broads, as sea levels rise and our coastline becomes more costly to defend.

The Pike Anglers Club has given the public to have their say by offering them the chance to sign its online petition, on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's 10 Downing Street website.

Last year, the 2,500-strong club helped villagers win a campaign to save Cambridgeshire's historic lodes.

Click here to sign the petition to save the Broads.

Click here for the Lowestoft Journal report.

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