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Brancaster footpath 5 closure

There is a closure on a 1.7km stretch of the Norfolk Coast Path at Brancaster. This is along Brancaster Footpath 5, between Harbour Way and Butchers Drove.

Plans for a new boardwalk were approved by the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk on 27 September 2023.

Work to replace the boardwalk is due to start on 23 October 2023 and will be completed early March 2024, weather permitting.

Work will involve complete replacement of the existing boardwalk using long-lasting glass reinforced plastic (GRP) materials, and installation of an aggregate path at the beginning and end of the new boardwalk. GRP is a strong, durable and weather-resistant material which will have a significantly longer lifespan than the current wooden structure.

The new boardwalk will be 1500 mm wide with passing places, rest stops and viewpoints, and should remain in a good condition for more than 80 years. Once complete, the project will allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the wildlife and scenery of the Norfolk Coast Path and Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


There is a diversion along footpaths, pavements and quiet country lanes in place.

View the Brancaster Footpath diversion map. (PDF) [326KB]

There are barriers and signs across the boardwalk to prevent public access due to health and safety concerns.

The footpath sits within Brancaster Marsh Common. Access for 'rights of common', such as access for grazing cattle, are not affected by closure of the boardwalk.

An Activity Log is available on the Brancaster section of the National Trails website for the public to keep up to date.

Further information about the Brancaster boardwalk

Why the maintenance planned in 2022 did not go ahead

Brancaster is the Norfolk Coast Path's largest boardwalk.

We intended to make repairs to extend its lifespan in 2022. When planning the repair work, we found many defects. There were 35 defects in March 2022 and by September 2022 we recorded 83. This meant that repair work to the current structure was not possible. The boardwalk was deteriorating at an extraordinary speed.

Both the planks on the top of the boardwalk and the supporting structure below contained rot. This presents a huge risk to members of the public and could lead to serious injury. Norfolk County Council is liable for any harm.

Repair work would not be enough and the boardwalk requires a complete replacement.

We could not pre-plan a replacement due to unexpected factors such as:

  • The covid-19 pandemic saw a huge increase in footfall on this section of the Norfolk Coast Path
  • A warm and wet summer in 2021 created perfect conditions for wood-eating fungi

The upgraded boardwalk will provide long-lasting, high-quality access. Lifespan is a key consideration of any new boardwalk. We have identified the most durable materials for this well-used coastal site.


Permissions needed to replace the boardwalk

The replacement is a large-scale project that needed detailed consent and planning processes. This is because the boardwalk sits within a site protected for nature. It covers some of the most protected landscapes for wildlife in the county. It sits in:

  • The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • The North Norfolk Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • The North Norfolk Coast Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • The North Norfolk Special Protection Area (SPA)
  • North Norfolk Coast Ramsar
  • Greater Wash SPA
  • The Wash & North Norfolk Coast SAC
  • A Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM)
  • The Norfolk Heritage Coast
  • Flood Zone 3

The boardwalk replacement will disturb the landscape and the species that live there. The wildlife has a large impact on what work we can carry out and when. The works need permissions from:

  • National Trust (the landowner)
  • Natural England
  • Historic England


The stages of the design and delivery process

The design and delivery process for the complete replacement of the boardwalk includes:

Stage 1: Pre-design

We held site visits with Natural England, Historic England and the National Trust. In these meetings we discussed the construction materials that are available to us. We considered both treated wood and recycled plastic.

Stage 2: Options analysis, decision and permission

The three organisations above have approved our final boardwalk design. Planning permission was submitted to the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk on 7 July 2023.

We have applied for, and received formal assents and consents from the National Trust, Natural England and Historic England.

Stage 3: Ecology assessments

Ecology assessments have been completed in both spring and summer 2023. The ecology report has concluded that the work will not result in any Likely Significant Effects (LSE) on plants, animals or habitats, as long as the ecology team's recommended precaution measures are taken.

Stage 4: Delivery

Now that we have received sign off on the previous phases, we have hired a contractor. They will carry out the delivery of the boardwalk replacement.


The future of the boardwalk

This section of the Norfolk Coast Path is a footpath. It will remain a footpath after the replacement of the boardwalk.

You are not permitted to cycle or ride a horse along the route. 

Visit our cycling routes webpages for more information about nearby routes.

Horse riders are welcome at Holkham beach nearby and along the Peddars Way. You can find more information about horse riding on the Norfolk Coast website.