Sluice gates which help protect thousands of homes and businesses from flooding are inoperable, leading to high water levels across West Norfolk and the Fens.

A briefing note by the Environment Agency (EA), seen by the EDP, says three of the seven gates in the Relief Channel Tail Sluice at Saddlebow, near King's Lynn, are out of action.

"We have not been able to achieve the same flows this year compared to the 2020 flood event with similar conditions and tides," it says.

"As a result of the potential reduction in discharge capacity we are planning the best locations to install ultra-high volume pumps, for contingency purposes, site meetings have already occurred and plans are being finalised."

READ MORE: How sluices help to stop the Fens from flooding

The structure discharges water into the tidal Ouse via the gates and the EA's note says water levels in the Relief Channel, which runs from Denver Sluice to Saddlebow are higher than normal.

This in turn has led to higher levels than normal further inland, the briefing note says, adding: "River levels in the Cut Off Channel, Little Ouse and River Wissey could be higher for longer than usual, with the potential for isolated and localised flooding along these watercourses."

The 12-mile-long man-made channel, which was built after the devastating floods of 1947, provides a short cut for excess water from the rivers Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey, which travels via the Cut Off Channel to Denver.  

The EA briefing says it plans to look at refurbishing the structure as part of "a large capital project" due to begin next year.

Large-scale works on the gates were last carried out in 2012.

An EA spokesman said: "We are investigating repair options and have been manually opening some of the gates for the last two weeks to maximise discharge due to continued wet weather and high levels.

"We are monitoring this situation and are progressing repairs urgently so they can be returned to normal automatic operation as soon as possible."