A recently completed twenty-year project covering 30,000 hectares (ha) (74,141 acres (ac)) of environmentally and economically sensitive land in the east of England, the Broadlands project has provided sustainable and affordable, long-term flood defences for rural communities.

The multi-million pound contract was awarded as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme by the Environment Agency in February 2001 to Jacobs as consultant and BAM Nuttall as contractor, working together in a joint venture as Broadland Environmental Services Ltd (BESL). The program’s main purpose was to provide a strategic approach to improving the Broadland flood defences while engaging key stakeholders and the local community.

The program area is located wholly within the Norfolk Broads river system, an extensive area of wetland with a status equivalent to that of a National Park. Program focus was to improve and maintain the flood defences along the tidal reaches of the Rivers Yare, Bure, Waveney and their tributaries in Norfolk and North Suffolk. As well as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the flood defences protect agricultural land, private properties, five previously undefended communities, rail and road infrastructure systems, important archaeological and built heritage structural remains, and several recreational facilities.

During the project, hard erosion protection (mainly steel sheet piling) has been replaced by wide reed beds through realigning the flood bank to create more sustainable assets. Additionally, there are enhanced mooring facilities, improved navigation of channels and new slipways for boaters; new platforms for anglers, and 100 km (62 mi) of upgraded footpaths.

The success of the Broadland Flood Alleviation Project demonstrates that large-scale improvement schemes that have a strategic approach to improving existing flood defences can be accomplished within a nationally and internationally important wetland area.

Long-term collaborative schemes that involve key stakeholder groups and landowners in detailed phases of public consultation can enable the development of partnership projects. These schemes achieve the desired objectives for biodiversity while reducing disturbance to important and notable sites.