Restoring the River for Wildlife

The Environmental Agency is funding Norfolk Rivers Trust to work on schemes that will increase meanders in the river, increase the speed of flow of the water, and trap more of the sediment that it transports. At the same time the schemes will improve water quality and provide marginal cover and habitat for river dwellers, such as water voles.

Newly constructed Berm Photo: John Elbro

Woody berms are being installed at various points along the banks of the River Yare between Cringleford Bridge and the UEA campus. The Woody Berms are made up of woody material, mainly alder, layered at the river margins and held tightly in place by stakes and cross braces. In places this has necessitated cutting back some of the vegetation on the banks to provide the materials.

As time passes reeds and other marginal vegetation will become established in the berms to give a more naturalised appearance and create habitat. An idea of what the mature berm might look like can be seen in a Wessex River Trust booklet.

Yare Valley Water Vole Photo: Lynda Clarkson

The Norwich Fringe Project has also been using natural materials to restore sections of bank that have become eroded at Marsden Marsh. It has inserted Faggots at places with serious bank erosion, these will help to consolidate the bank and reduce further erosion.

Bank restoration on Marsden Marsh

Explanatory notices have been put up to explain the works. A clearer map can be found here.

Another Planning Application for McCarthy Stone Bluebell Road site.

Planning application for hole in the ground “Pond” reduces public green space

Another application, 22/01567/F, has been made relating to the McCarthy Stone phase 3 development on Bluebell Road. The application is for enlarging the attenuation pond constructed for water runoff of phases 1 and 2 to cope with phase 3. The use of “pond” although not technically incorrect may give a misleading picture of what is being proposed. Attenuation ponds for developments can be unsightly and potentially dangerous. An attenuation pond in a public access green space linked into the projected Yare Valley Parkway should be more than a hole in the ground. It should be safe and add to the amenity of the open space rather than detract from it.

Existing Attenuation Pond for phases 1 and 2.

The Yare Valley Society has several concerns about the proposals:

Restriction of public green space

The pond extension as positioned would further restrict the Public Access Green Space being made available under phase 2 of the development (now under construction). It should be a separate pond contained within the original Phase 3 development area.


Insufficient attention has been paid to measures that could reduce the size of the attenuation pond e.g. by a greater use of water permeable surfaces of drives, roads and parking areas etc., and by use of rainwater harvesting (e.g., rainwater tubs, rain gardens) within the site.

Design and Planting

Insufficient attention has been given to its design and planting. It is a large feature in a public green space and so itshould be sculpted to create a natural setting. It should then be planted with trees, shrubs and other plants to improve visual appearance, provide safe public access, and provide habitats for wildlife.

Water Quality

It is not clear what steps are to be taken to ensure the water entering the pond is of sufficiently good quality to avoid hazard to wildlife or to the public.


A Management Regime will need to be put in place to maintain and improve biodiversity, amenity, and water quality of the attenuation pond into the future.

What is possible?

The attenuation pond is a SUD (Sustainable Drainage System), and modern designs for SUDs in public green spaces maximise the potential for SUDs to contribute to the ecology and amenity of their surroundings. Key design principles for SUDS can be found on p 11 of the RSPB publication “Sustainable Drainage Systems – Maximising the potential for people and wildlife” . The publication shows what is possible with foresight and planning.

If you share the YVS concerns, please respond to this application by going to the Norwich Planning website, and inserting the reference 22/01567/F for details. Please make clear in your response why a properly designed and sited attenuation pond is important to you personally. Please act ASAP.

The Yare Valley Society’s submission on the application is here.

Reporting on your River or Broad this weekend?

Planet Patrol is asking people to head to their local waterways for about 15 minutes around the 14th, 15th, and 16th of October 2022 to report on their condition. It is part of the Planet Patrol Autumn Water Watch programme.

How clean is the water you swing over?

“Water is central to the health, well-being and livelihood of everyone on this planet. In the UK, the biggest risk to water quality is the ongoing lack of sampling, monitoring and reporting. The impact on both human health and the ecosystems that rely on them are still largely unobserved and unreported. Right now we have a monumental information gap that needs to be urgently filled, and that can be started through simple observations – something we can all do. 

If you don’t truly understand the problem, how can you solve it?”

To take part you can download their App from the Apple or Google store or you can complete their online form.

Colney Burial site gets planning go ahead

At a Zoom meeting today, the South Norfolk District Council Development Committee approved plans for the extension of the Colney Burial site. The extension borders on the River Yare and the Bowthorpe fishing lakes. It takes the form of a narrow strip close to the river connecting to a larger area to the east of the existing site

At the meeting Colney Parish and the Yare Valley Society expressed concerns before approval was given.

The Yare Valley Society pushed for the Development to safeguard, and where possible enhance, the landscape character of the valley, and for there to be no risk of pollution to the river from the burial site. Colney Parish drew particular attention to the regularity of flooding of some of the site from the river, and the increased pollution that could result.

Flooding near existing burial ground

By a vote of 4 to 1 approval was given subject to a number of conditions that went part way to addressing concerns.

Protection of the landscape and ecology will be addressed by a Landscape and Woodland Management Plan. This will include a commitment to increase the proportion of native trees and to safeguard local wildlife. The protection of a heronry will be included in the plan.

The pollution issue is complex. The Tier Two Groundwater Risk Assessment Survey for the site concluded the site to be high risk with the close proximity of the River Yare contributing significantly to the overall risk.

The Environmental Agency, as recently as November 2019, reported the Yare had unacceptable levels of chemical pollution, and that targets for improvement are likely to be missed. YVS argued that now is not the time to be accepting further pollution of our rivers by new developments. Adding more pollution to the river would not bring the pollution problem under control and would result in further damage to our river ecosystems. Flooding would add a further unknown in assessing the likelihood of river pollution.

The approval was given subject to groundwater monitoring of the site, and a flood evacuation plan being in place.

The YVS continues to be concerned about possible contamination of the river and the effectiveness of monitoring. On the positive side, an effective implementation of a Landscape and Woodland Plan should safeguard the visual attractiveness and the ecology of this part of the Valley for the foreseeable future.

Please note that an Eastern Daily Press article on the decision entitled “The hearses will have to go on boats” should have given the correct names of the representatives of Colney Parish and the Yare Valley Society as Bee Korn and John Elbro  respectively.



Pollution persists in the River Yare

More than ten days after oil pollution in the river was first reported, and the Environmental Agency inserted booms at the believed point of entry of the pollution into the river, pollution of the river by what appears to be diesel oil continues. Today, 3rd January, the “smell of diesel” remains at the bridge at the bottom of Chancellor’s Drive and a continuous oil slick can be seen moving downstream. Eaton Village Residents Association (EVRA) report the pollution has reached as far downstream as Marston Marsh.

Danger for Ducks

Dog owners can act to avoid their dogs being contaminated, but no such protection can be afforded to the flora and fauna of the valley. The Oil Care Campaign publicises information on the impact of oil in rivers and provides advice on reducing its entry into the environment.

Please continue to report to the Environmental Agency the location of any pollution you see in the River, and so help stop the hazard continuing. The easiest way to do this is to use the Environmental Agency Incident Hotline 0800 80 70 60.