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‘They only did half a job’ - nature reserve slams Environment Agency

PUBLISHED: 08:35 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:35 22 January 2020

Nigel Middleton, Conservation officer at the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Nigel Middleton, Conservation officer at the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A conservation officer has hit out at the Environment Agency after a nature reserve reopens after flooding

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

A nature reserve has hit out at the Environment Agency after flooding forced the attraction to close for five days.

But the agency has defended its record over Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, saying its works at the site had not contributed to the flood.

The reserve, near Fakenham, reopened on Monday having been closed from January 15 after severe flooding caused damage to boardwalk paths.

The damage left the paths unsafe for public use and meant wildlife had to be relocated.

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

Nigel Middleton, 66, conservation officer for Sculthorpe, said the Environment Agency's River Wensum restoration scheme was responsible for the flooding.

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He said: "Prior to the work, we didn't get flooding like this. They (Environment Agency) won't acknowledge what they did was wrong. They only did half a job and the problem has not been sorted."

Mr Middleton said the scheme had benefits such as speeding up the river and keeping it clean. But he said a lack of work on the western side means the river was now too narrow and meant water overflows more often.

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: "Last week, Fakenham received 30mm of rain in just 24 hours. This resulted in the river flowing into the wetland reserve at Sculthorpe. This has not been caused by our river restoration scheme which we believe is performing as it was designed to do, reducing the flood risk to downstream communities."

The Environment Agency said it visited the site on January 15 to see if they could reduce the flooding situation. They have been working with the Hawk and Owl Trust to design and fund improvement to reduce the impact of flooding.

The flooding has also hit the reserve financially, with the site relying almost entirely on donations and public support to keep running.

Mr Middleton said the site could have lost anywhere between £3,500-£4,000 in donations because of the closure.

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

Also, the reserve's plans to redevelop some land that their managing company, The Hawk and Owl Trust, bought last year have been put on hold until the spring.

But Mr Middleton said he was staying positive. He said: "We will recover, slowly. We can just take every day as it comes."


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