Broads Plan 2022 - 2027

Previous section: Theme A - Responding to climate change and flood risk

Theme B: Improving landscapes for biodiversity and agriculture

IntroductionWater quantity and qualityFen, wet woodland and grazing marshSpeciesAgriculture, land use and development | Long-term aim Strategic objectives and key actions

Marsh harrier banner

Theme B: Improving landscapes for biodiversity and agriculture

B1 - Restore, maintain and enhance lakes and use monitoring evidence to trial and implement further innovative lake restoration techniques

B2 - Promote best practice water capture and usage across the Broadland Rivers Catchment and reduce point and diffuse pollution into the floodplain and water courses

B3 - Seek biodiversity net gain and enhance areas of fen, reed bed, grazing marsh and wet woodland, to protect peatlands as carbon sinks

B4 - Define, implement and monitor management regimes for priority species and invasive non-native species

B5 - Improve partnership coordination and communication of Broads biodiversity monitoring and research effort, linked to the National Biodiversity Network


The Broads is one of Europe’s finest and most important wetlands, with a rich mosaic of habitats comprising, among other things, shallow lakes, rivers, fens, drained marshland, wet woodland, estuary saltmarshes, intertidal mudflats and coastal dunes. Twenty-eight sites covering a total of more than 7200 hectares are nationally designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), a third of which are also National Nature Reserves, and there are numerous County Wildlife Sites within and near the Broads boundary. Most of the SSSIs are of international importance for their habitats and wildlife as the Broads Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Broadland Special Protection Area (SPA), and an area of the wetland is also designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The local agriculture is primarily a mix of livestock grazing and some arable cropping, with grassland the dominant feature in the floodplain. Reed and sedge cutting remains a traditional and important local industry.

We must remember that the Broads is essentially a man-made landscape, shaped over centuries. As highlighted in Theme A, while we will always seek to retain the Broads as a special and protected landscape it is likely to alter as a result of climate change and sea level rise, leading to more saline habitats and changes in land use, agricultural practices and cropping. Post-Brexit environmental and land management legislation, the economy, food and energy policy, leisure and tourism patterns and development growth in the East of England also bring both challenges and opportunities for the Broads landscape, wildlife and people.

Set within this context, we must seek to balance what is needed for a healthy, functioning ecosystem with the fair and sustainable use of the many benefits we get from it. This ambition is central to the Environment Act 2021, which sets goals to improve the natural environment and achieve biodiversity net gain, and to the Landscapes Review. Underpinning environmental policy is the Government’s 25-Year EnvironmentPlan, and protected landscapes like the Broads are critical for the ambitious target of protecting 30% of UK land and halting the decline in species abundance by 2030. The commitment  in relation to Nature Recovery grants for England includes creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat and restoring 75% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest into favourable condition by 2042. Species recovery and reintroduction will also be expanded. Local Nature Recovery Strategies are putting spatial planning for nature on a statutory basis, with Nature Recovery Network mapping prioritising local action to reduce pressures and enhance assets and benefits.

Water quantity and quality

The groundwater, rivers and broads in the Broadland Rivers Catchment (Map 2) are primary to the healthy condition and functioning of the Broads’ habitats, waterways and land and water dependent businesses. To put the best management regimes in place, we need to better understand the ecological and hydrological functioning of our water and water-related habitats, and address water demands across all sectors.

Good quality water is clear, low in nutrients and free of harmful substances. It has a rich diversity of aquatic plants and supports healthy populations of fish, invertebrates and water birds. The Broads restoration programme has been active for more than 35 years, and leads the UK in developing and studying lake restoration projects. However, despite significant improvements in water quality in recent decades, monitoring shows that all Broads’ water bodies and river reaches, and more than 90% of rivers in the Broads catchment, are failing European Water Framework Directive (WFD) targets12.

Water quality continues to be affected by a combination of point source and diffuse pollution from waste water, urban areas, transport and agriculture, as well as from physical modification of water courses, changes to water flow, salinity and water abstraction. As the driest region in the UK, Eastern England is extremely vulnerable to water shortages. During droughts and other periods of water stress, rivers and wetlands can suffer damage that is then exacerbated by abstraction and other land and water management activity.

Water Resources East (WRE) was established in 2019 to bring together water, agriculture, power and environmental interests (including the Broads Authority) to look at the water needs and potential trade-offs across the sectors, balancing considerations of customers, agriculture, the environment and the economy. The Broads has a key role in contributing to the delivery of Environment Act targets to improve water quality and quantity. The WRE is working with stakeholders to develop an integrated Water Resources Management Plan for the region. The Broadland Catchment Partnership also works with local land managers, farmers, businesses and others to take practical action to improve water quality, capture and efficient use. The next Local Plan for the Broads13 will include updated planning policies on water use and efficiency, as well as nutrient neutrality and other water quality measures.

Fen, wet woodland and grazing marsh

The Broads is a UK priority wetland area, with the largest expanse of species-rich peat fen in lowland Britain. Most of its fen sites are designated for nature conservation, with around 40% owned or managed by conservation organisations. The Fen Ecological Survey (2010) showed clear evidence of loss, fragmentation and decline in some areas, but also showed how other areas have been improved by focused agri- environmental support.

An estimated 13 million tonnes of carbon are stored in the Broads’ peat soils. Crucially, we can expect fewer greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands with water at or close to the soil surface and carbon rich alluvial soils than from intensively drained peatlands. Good water level management can also benefit landscape character, flood control, water cleaning and biodiversity. The England Peat Action Plan (2021) sets out the Government’s long-term vision for managing, protecting and restoring our peatlands so they provide a wide range of benefits to wildlife and people. The peatlands policy statement issued by the Campaign for National Parks  (Nov  2021) calls  for  greater priority to be given to restoring and rewetting peatland of all types within National Parks, with the aim of bringing it all into good condition or restoration management by 2030 at the latest. The Lowland Agricultural Peatland Task Force will publish a ‘road map’ for sustainable lowland agriculture, including paludiculture (wet agriculture on peatlands), in late 2022.

The Broads has the most extensive tract of wild wet woodland within Eastern England. It is of international significance and where not designated may, like other habitats located on peat soils, be at risk from drainage and from loss due to development. Natural regeneration of wild wet woodland in suitable low-quality habitats can support nature recovery.

Grazing marsh covers around half of the Broads. Some areas attract large and internationally important numbers of breeding and non- breeding birds, and there is a substantial area of internationally important dyke communities. The marshes provide a third of East Anglia’s cattle grazing land, and local farmers and graziers rely on environmental land management support to optimise profit and protect the habitats. Threats to these habitats include loss to arable reversion and land drainage, development, water level regimes, flooding, drought, salt tides and invasive species.


There are more  than  11,000 recorded  species in the Broads, including 26% of all UK BAP14 priority species and 17% of all nationally notable or scarce species. Sixty-six species are either restricted entirely to the Broads or rarely seen elsewhere in Britain. Iconic species include the Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Otter, Fen Orchid, Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly and the entire UK populations of the Swallowtail Butterfly, Dotted Footman Moth and Holly-Leaved Naiad.

However, some species are in decline or on the brink of survival. The challenges faced by many species, including Broads’ specialists, include increases in seasonal variability in river levels and depleted water resources, salinity from land drainage and tidal flooding, nutrient enrichment and pollution of the waterways, habitat loss and fragmentation, and increasing threats from invasive non-native species. Species recovery and translocation programmes can take substantial time and resources, as can managing invasive species. Gains in recent years include wintering water birds around Breydon, Fen Raft Spider, Otter, Bittern, Crane and Marsh Harrier, and the control of invasive species such as Floating Pennywort and American Mink, but much more needs to be done.

Agriculture, land use and development

Adapting land use to work more sustainably with nature and environmental change requires coordinated investment. This plan period will see the greatest changes in UK agricultural policy for half a century, with three new land management payments schemes (Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery) introduced during the Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024. The schemes focus on paying farmers for public goods such as clean water, improved biodiversity and climate change mitigation, alongside crop production. Some income streams may come through private revenue, such as from large corporations for carbon credits, housing developers for nutrient, water and biodiversity credits, and water companies for water quality improvements. Other action, such as for major flood risk management, air quality control and land subsidies, is likely to rely mostly on public funding.

Long-term aim

Biodiversity is thriving in the Broads, which remains a globally important wetland adapting to climate change. Sustainable land and water management practices support well-functioning ecosystems to provide multiple public goods including food, clean and plentiful water, carbon storage, abundant wildlife, landscape character, and recreation and tourism. The challenging targets to improve water quality, water supply and flood protection are being met. Opportunities are taken to establish more, bigger, better and more joined up ecological networks, and priority species and their habitat needs are well understood and well managed to halt and reverse biodiversity decline and loss, increase resilience and adaptive ability, and pursue environmental net gain. Invasive non-native species are under control and eradicated where possible. A profitable agriculture sector provides good food while maintaining or restoring habitats to good ecological condition. Robust evidence and monitoring guide good decision making in all aspects of natural resource management.

Theme B: Strategic objectives and key actions

B1 - Restore, maintain and enhance rivers and broads and use monitoring evidence to trial and implement further innovative restoration techniques

Key actions 2022-27 [lead delivery partners]Delivery linksResourcesMonitoring
  • Seek funding to develop and implement river and broad restoration, maintenance and enhancement works for aquatic communities (incl. fish) at priority sites to meet WFD  and SSSI objectives [BA, BBP partners, BASG]
  • Complete post-works monitoring of Hoveton, Trinity and Hickling Broads’ condition status, and use evidence to trial and implement further innovative restoration techniques [NE, EA, BA]

Broads BWS Broads WMS DWPPs

Hoveton Great Broad Restoration Project




WFD & SSSI site condition targets, EA statutory monitoring data; WMS and DWPP targets

B2 - Promote best practice water capture and usage across the Broadland Rivers Catchment and reduce point and diffuse pollution into the floodplain and water courses

Key actions 2022-27 [lead delivery partners]Delivery linksResourcesMonitoring
  • Implement water efficiency measures and planning policy to reduce water usage in new development, and promote to domestic and business water users15 [AW/ESW, non-domestic water retail companies, LPAs]

Water resource management plans

LPA Local Plans


Water company business plan targets

  • Promote and install ‘whole farm’ (and where feasible, low cost) water capital infrastructure and water retention and infiltration measures [BCP, AW/ESW, county FWAGs]

Water resource management plans

Funded schemes, water capital grants

WSF targets, CSF data, RDPE  reporting

  • Develop cross-sector, integrated water resources management plan [WRE, AW/ ESW, NFU]
  • Implement Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP) action plans in Broadland catchment [NE, EA, AW/ESW, other project partners]

Water resource management plans (incl. Norfolk Water Strategy Programme)


Wendling Beck Exemplar project

Funded schemes

Water company funds

CAMS resource availability, WFD hydrology status

AW/ESW  targets, EA action plan targets

  • Work with farmers/land managers and organisations to implement tailored environmental land and water management measures to reduce air pollution and water pollution [BCP coordination, HA]

Broads BWS



BCP partners

ELMs, FiPL, other grant schemes, private finance


CSF water capital grant targets, WFD/ SSSI/
SAC/ Nature 2000

B3 - Seek biodiversity net gain and enhance areas of fen, reed bed, grazing marsh and wet woodland, to protect peatlands as carbon sinks

Key actions 2022-27 [lead delivery partners]Delivery linksResourcesMonitoring
  • Identify areas suitable for rewetting for reed bed/fen creation and for commercially viable paludiculture [BA, BCP & BBP partners, farmers & land managers, IDBs, RSPB, NRT, water companies]
  • Develop and implement tailored habitat management measures with focus on low carbon methods and nature-based solutions; support farmers and land managers in transition to LNR and ELMs schemes [BA, BBP partners, BLMB, BRASCA, RSPB, farmers & land managers]
  • Offer advice and practical support to local reed and sedge cutters, incl. extension of cutting areas, new commercial reed beds, equipment, contracts and training initiatives [BA, BRASCA]

Broads BWS


Broads CCAP

England Peat Action Plan

BRASCA Action Plan



CANAPE, NCPGS and successor grant schemes



Peatland Code


Total area peatland, area restored peatland (ha)

Total area under BA management agreement (ha)

% priority habitat in CS; SSSI condition status

Carbon reduction targets

BBP monitoring

  • Complete nature conservation activities under Broads LPS ‘Water, Mills & Marshes’ Programme 5: Natural Landscapes by Dec 2023, and develop and implement legacy activities based on evaluation and outcomes of LPS [Broads LPS delivery partners]
WMM and legacy schemes

NLHF LPS, partners

Broads LPS target data for NLHF

  • Develop and apply biodiversity net gain requirement for development in the Broads [BA]
  • Develop Norfolk and Suffolk Nature Recovery Strategy and identify and map potential areas of new habitat, wildlife corridors, extended/new field buffer strips and pollinator networks [NCC, SCC, NSNRP, partners]
  • Update and adopt Broadland Rivers Catchment Plan [BBP partners, BCP partners, farmers & land managers]

Local Plan for the Broads


Broads BWS


ELMs, partners

# investment plans completed (e.g. econet mapping)

Reviewed Broadland Catchment Plan

  • Develop and implement integrated landscape-scale initiatives, incl. Landscape Recovery Schemes, NWT/ SWT Living Landscapes, RSPB Priority Landscapes [NBP partners, BCP partners, other partners]
  • Green Infrastructure and Recreational Disturbance Avoidance Mitigation Strategies – see strategic objective F4


Partners, secured external funding

Individual project delivery targets

B4 - Define, implement and monitor management regimes for priority species and invasive non-native species

Key actions 2022-27 [lead delivery partners]Delivery linksResourcesMonitoring
  • Implement priority species recovery and support programmes, incl. targeted management, spatial mapping, monitoring, research and species translocation action where appropriate [BBP partners, Highways England]

Broads BWS

Partners, grants

Distribution of breeding wader pop., # new sites for Bittern/ Swallowtail, priority INNS data

  • Carry out invasive non-native species monitoring regimes and awareness campaigns; and make data publicly available on present/potential threats and biosecurity plans & control programmes where threats are highest [NNNSI]
  • Implement new biosecurity standard to minimise risks of field workers accidentally introducing/spreading biosecurity threats [BA]


Broads BWS

Defra Group Personal Biosecurity Project

Partners, grants

NNNSI data

B5 - Improve partnership coordination and communication of Broads biodiversity monitoring and research effort, linked to the National Biodiversity Network

Key actions 2022-27 [lead delivery partners]Delivery linksResourcesMonitoring
  • Carry out research/monitoring to determine impacts of habitat management and manipulation techniques, and coordinate/share findings [BBP partners, BA, EA, NBN]

    (Priority research areas 2022-27: Extension of Broads Biodiversity Audit to include assessment of guilds; Carbon emissions related to land uses; Fen ecology and water levels and quality; Prymnesium ecology and mitigation of impact on fish; Pollutant inputs; Impacts of drought, flooding and salinity; Creating markets for fen materials; Impacts of connectivity, stressors and interaction on freshwater habitats)

Broads BWS


Research grants

# published papers/ research reports
BBP monitoring

  • Complete community-based research and monitoring activities under Broads LPS ’Water, Mills & Marshes’ Programme 1: Interpreting the Landscape and Programme 3: Learning and Future Skills by Dec 2023; develop and implement legacy research and monitoring projects based on evaluation and outcomes of Broads LPS [Broads LPS delivery partners]
WMM and legacy schemes

NLHF LPS, partners

Broads LPS target data for NLHF