Reporter Conor McGlone gives a view on the developments at Hoveton Great Broad.
The Environment Agency (EA) is taking enforcement action against Natural England (NE) for erecting two fish barriers without permits in the Norfolk Broads.
In an email seen by ENDS, the EA said that the wildlife regulator had installed the passes at Hudson’s Marsh and Gravel Dyke without flood risk permits and that they had referred the matter to their enforcement team to investigate further. In November, the High Court quashed NE’s permit to erect two nearby fish barriers at Hoveton Great Broad. They were described by the Angling Trust as “environmentally disastrous”.
The EA had granted Natural England a permit to install the passes in July 2020 in order to “combat turbidity and promote better weed growth”.
But the Angling Trust and Broads Angling Services Group challenged the EA’s plans through a judicial review, arguing that the Natural England project would block off vital spawning grounds at Hoveton Great Broad (HGB).
At the time, Freedom Of Information responses obtained by Fish Legal revealed that investigations by the EA’s own fisheries team (FBG) had suggested that the impact on spawning fish would be “catastrophic”.
Justin Neal, a solicitor for Fish Legal, said: “None of this information was made available to the public during or after the consultation, so it had to be dragged out of the EA afterwards”.
Despite the High Court ruling, which found the EA had failed to publicise and properly consult on the application for the permit, Natural England meanwhile erected two separate fish barriers at Gravel Dyke and Hudson’s Marsh.
In an email to Fish Legal – seen by ENDS – the EA said an application for a Flood Risk Activity Permit was required by NE for these sites but “as no such application was received this matter has been referred to the EA’s enforcement team to investigate further”.
The EA also said it had not been not aware of the construction of the barriers in September 2020 and that local FBG team views “were not sought regarding these particular barriers”, neither was the EA “aware of a WFD assessment” relating to them.
Neal said: “The biomanipulation project at Hoveton Great Broad has been a mess from the start. In 2014, NE said in its environmental statement that it would not go ahead with the scheme if the EA fisheries team objected to the proposal. Unfortunately, the fisheries team’s view that the scheme was a bad idea for fish was suppressed by the EA.
“In fact, no one knew exactly what the fisheries team was saying until after the Flood Risk Activities Permit was granted by the EA in July 2020. We launched judicial review proceedings and the decision was quashed. Meanwhile, we learned that NE had installed two more fish barriers.”
First published in https://www.endsreport.com/