24 July 1998

£63m no-flood cash to Broads

A MULTI-MILLION £ project to prevent flooding over more than 8000ha (21,000 acres) of farmland was given the go-ahead by the government this week.

The work, across part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, will cost £63m and will take the Environment Agency 10 years to complete.

Land in the Broads has always been susceptible to flooding, either from high freshwater river flows or, more frequently, high sea levels.

It last suffered major flooding three years ago as bureaucrats tried to come to a decision on the best means of protecting the area.

A barrage across the River Yare estuary at Yarmouth was eventually scrapped in favour of a less expensive and disruptive scheme, the one now given financial approval.

It will lead to the strengthening of the earth embankments in the area surrounding the tidal reaches of the rivers Yare, Bure and Waveney.

David Ritchie, who has farmed in the area at Ludham for 50 years, had 235ha (600 acres) of land flooded five years ago and lost his autumn-sown wheat.

It was the following spring before he was able to get back onto the flooded land.

Mr Ritchie said this week: "Were very pleased that more money has been found."

Nigel Wright, chairman of the NFUs regional advisory board, added: "Im jolly glad to see the scheme – on the stocks for such a long time – is at last getting off the ground. The sooner they get started the better."

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said existing flood defence walls were slowly sinking and, with sea level rising, the work was considered to be urgent.

About a quarter of the annual national flood defence budget of £240m is already spent in the Anglian region, one-fifth of which is below sea level.

David Ritchie, Ludham Hall Farm, Norfolk, at the spot where, in 1993, the banks collapsed, flooding 600 acres of his land.