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Level best

The Environment Agency's Broadland strategy involves strengthening banks and erosion protection. It considered various levels of bank strengthening but decided that major bank raising throughout the area was not feasible on either engineering or environmental grounds.

Instead, it will maintain banks at around their current levels and standard over the next 15 years. Taking into account settlement and sea level rise, protection will not be set to one specific standard. It says that overtopping is therefore still likely to occur, but the substantial strengthening works will eliminate large scale permanent flooding. Every 15 years, there will be a 10 year bank renewal programme to maintain these standards.

The first 10 year programme is costing pounds63M, with pounds22M spent on bank strengthening, pounds35M to provide erosion protection for the banks' toes and pounds6M to improve protection of undefended properties. Keller's work forms part of the first phase of this programme, covering a stretch of the River Yare between Reedham and Berney Arms Reach.

The agency hopes that work will reduce the risk of banks breaching which would otherwise eventually result in the permanent loss of 1,700 properties, 21,300ha of land and the intrinsic value of the area.

It is also looking at new first time flood defences for the 475 unprotected properties in at least 12 communities within the scope of the project. In the long term, if sea level rise through global warning does occur, barriers might be needed for flood protection. If this is necessary, the agency believes that the current works will form an integral part of any plan for flood protection.

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