�1bn coastal protection idea for Norfolk

Ed FossA �1bn sea defence wall to protect the Norfolk coastline and Broads has been proposed by a leading figure in the county's boating scene.Ed Foss

A �1bn sea defence wall to protect the Norfolk coastline and Broads has been proposed by a leading figure in the county's boating scene.

A massive wall built out at sea and linking Great Yarmouth to Happisburgh, enclosing dozens of square miles of ocean and turning it into a freshwater haven for wildlife and tourism, could be the answer to some of the climate change challenges facing Norfolk and the northern Broads, according to Mike Evans.

Mr Evans has held a series of high profile posts in the boating world such as chairman of the Royal Yachting Association and is the current president of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, and a representative of private boat owners at the Broads Authority.

The wall would act as a 17-mile long breakwater, locking the sea out of both its own area and the delicate habitats of the Broads behind it.

Mr Evans conceded the 'dramatic' concept might sound 'outlandish and crazy'.

But he said that as well as being a serious consideration, it could also have the added benefit of encouraging people to think about the future of the county and the Broads network in a more radical way as the spectre of climate change and rising sea levels continues to hang over the future of the iconic and internationally important low lying wetlands.

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'We need to think radically and we need to think big,' said Mr Evans, who lives in Wroxham.

'Some may think initially it is a crazy idea, but the more they think about it, the more I hope they will collect all the problems we face together and realise that perhaps there is indeed something in it.

'I have run the idea past a fair few people already and many of them have come to exactly that conclusion.'

The wall, which has been given a theoretical cost of �1bn, would give a string of benefits, said Mr Evans, including:

Protecting the Broads

Potentially increasing the land area rather than reducing it

Creating a scheme with the same level of environmental profile as the Eden project in Cornwall

Creating jobs and recreational tourism

Helping to hit house building targets

Providing acceptable places to build windfarms

Storing surplus winter run off water, able to recharge the Broads when summer levels are low

The idea had precedent, said Mr Evans, with examples such as the freshwater Islemeer, a 400-plus square mile shallow lake in the central Netherlands reclaimed from an inland sea in the 1930s.

Paul Thomas, of the EDP's sister publication Anglia Afloat, where Mr Evans' idea has been revealed and discussed in the current January and February edition, said funding would clearly be a difficult hurdle.

But he added: 'If the government can throw billions at the banks, the price of this project which could save such a valuable piece of landscape is put in context.

Anglia Afloat is conducting a web poll on the subject. Log on to www.angliaafloat.co.uk to take part.

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk