Senior councillors and officials are calling for the creation of a network of reservoirs to be built across Norfolk to store up water and save areas from flooding.

A delegation from the county made the case during a visit to London this week, on the 71st anniversary of the North Sea Flood, which left a trail of death and destruction in Norfolk.

Led by Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason Billig and Henry Cator, chairman of the Norfolk Strategic Flood Alliance (NSFA), the group made a Portcullis House presentation to MPs to push for legislation to build the reservoirs, which could be used to capture water in times of flood and allow it to be used in droughts.

They also called for : 

  • A cut to red tape to make it easier for councils to get money for schemes to prevent surface water flooding.

  • Councils like Norfolk to get greater power to allocate money to protect properties from flooding.

  • Councils to have more enforcement powers.

  • The creation of a dedicated minister for the coast.

READ MORE: Norfolk communities most at risk from coastal erosion

Watton & Swaffham Times: Henry CatorHenry Cator (Image: Archant)

Mr Cator said: "We’ve made great strides in Norfolk in identifying sites at risk of flooding and proposing real, viable solutions for them, however under the current regulatory environment there are limits to what we can effectively do.

"It may sound dull and technical, but changes to how powers and funding are granted can have a real impact in how quickly and efficiently we can work on the ground in Norfolk.

Watton & Swaffham Times: Coastal erosion in HemsbyCoastal erosion in Hemsby (Image: PA)

“More than that, however, there needs to be a real conversation about how flood defences can be maintained at a national level: we know every pound spent on flood defence prevents approximately £12 worth of damage being wrought on homes and businesses.

"That kind of return on investment deserves a real and urgent discussion at the highest levels of government, and a dedicated minister for the coast could lead those discussions and effect real change."

Watton & Swaffham Times: Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County CouncilKay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council (Image: Norfolk County Council)

Mrs Mason Billig said: "Due to Norfolk’s location and geography our county has always been exposed to flooding and coastal erosion, but the impact of the series of storms that have hit the country this winter can leave no one in any doubt that these serious issues must be addressed."

Leaders hoped environment secretary Steve Barclay would be there, but he was not able to attend.

Watton & Swaffham Times: Steve BarclaySteve Barclay

Labour group leader Steve Morphew, said: "There will be a lot of anger and disappointment the secretary of state didn't show up.

"It was well over four months ago the county council unanimously called for a letter to be sent to him.

"The inexplicable delay and the no show will reinforce the sense of coastal communities sense that they are not seeing the urgency they deserve."

Watton & Swaffham Times: Labour leader Steve MorphewLabour leader Steve Morphew (Image: Denise Bradley)



Ahead of the delegation's visit, a row broke out over a letter the council was supposed to send the environment secretary pushing for fairer funding for Norfolk to tackle coastal erosion.

A motion that the council should write to the environment secretary - Therese Coffey at that time - asking for changes was agreed, with cross-party support, at a full council meeting in September.

At a meeting in December, Mrs Mason Billig was asked, by Labour's Colleen Walker, if she would share the letter. She said she did not have it in front of her, but that she would try to find it.

Mrs Mason Billig contacted Mrs Walker to explain the letter had not been sent because the November reshuffle meant Ms Coffey had been replaced as environment secretary by Steve Barclay.

Watton & Swaffham Times: Colleen WalkerColleen Walker

At a recent council meeting Mrs Walker accused Mrs Mason Billig of misleading the council.

The council leader denied doing so, saying she had been unsure of the status of the letter in her initial response.

She said she had spoken to Mr Barclay about the issue when he visited Norfolk last month and had hoped to present it to him at the Westminster meeting.

However, in his absence, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker presented the letter to Mr Barclay's office.