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“We can’t keep them all” - lottery bid will decide which Norfolk Broads mills need protection

PUBLISHED: 10:03 30 June 2014 | UPDATED: 10:03 30 June 2014

Thurne Mill.  Picture: James Bass

Thurne Mill. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Some of the monuments which help define the unique character of the Norfolk Broads could be lost as a £3m bid for lottery funding seeks to protect those which are most important to its landscape.

Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman

The Broads Authority has made protection of key former drainage mills a central part of a three-pronged application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The submission will focus on the built heritage, archaeological heritage and natural heritage of the area.

As well as preserving some of the mills, it will seek support to explore thousands of years’ of the area’s history, dating back to at least Roman times, which remains hidden below the ground, and enhance bird habitats which are of international importance.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman told the organisation’s annual meeting on Saturday that the HLF bid was one of its three key priorities for the coming year.

Speaking afterwards, he said the distinctive mills which dotted the landscape were in “grave need of a lot of work”, and the strategy needs to look at “how we can protect the ones that are important to the landscape”.

He said: “In terms of the mills, it’s about implementing a long-term, sustainable strategy. They are an important part of the landscape. We can’t keep them all, so it’s about what we can do.”

Dr Packman said that, unlike some national parks, the Broads did not have an archaeologist, despite the fact it could be conceived as “the largest archaeological site in Britain”.

He added: “As far as the archaeology goes, it’s a blank canvas. There is a huge amount that we don’t know. From the aerial photography, we suspect there is a lot we don’t know about.”

The third strand of the funding bid, which could be built around a theme of “above and below”, would concentrate on enhancing the Lower Yare area as a site for birds.

Dr Packman said the authority had held initial talks with the lottery fund, and hopes to submit its formal application next May.

The bid will seek funding from the HLF’s Landscape Partnerships scheme, which awards grants of between £100,000 and £3m for projects led by partnerships of local, regional and national interests which aim to conserve areas of distinctive landscape character throughout the UK.

According to the HLF, Landscape Partnership schemes must contribute to nine defined outcomes, including heritage being better managed, identified and recorded; people developing skills and volunteering time; environmental impacts being reduced, and the local area being a better place to live, work or visit.

Applications go through a two-stage process, with a development phase of up to 24 months, depending on the complexity of the scheme, and second-round submission which goes to a local committee for a final decision.

In March, a series of landscape and heritage projects in the Brecks received a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery.

What do you think about the future of the Norfolk Broads’ mills? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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