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.

The closure is due to the rapid deterioration of the wooden boardwalk due to widespread presence of rot. This means the boardwalk is deteriorating much faster than expected.

We are obliged to put a long-term closure of this section in place due to health and safety concerns.


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

View the Brancaster Footpath diversion map.

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.

Timescales and next steps 

We understand that the continued closure of this popular path is disappointing for the public and the businesses along the route. We are working hard to keep members of the public up to date on progress. We thank you for your patience during this time.

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

Plans for a new boardwalk were submitted to the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk on 7 July 2023.

We will update the website with more detailed timescales once:

  • We have approval of our plans
  • We have a schedule for replacement works to begin

Further information about the Brancaster boardwalk

Brancaster is the Norfolk Coast Path’s largest boardwalk. It is 11 years old and very close to the end of its functional lifespan.

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 is deteriorating at an extraordinary speed.

Both the planks on the top of the boardwalk and the supporting structure below contain rot. Any section could collapse at any time. 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

We will seek to upgrade the boardwalk to 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.

The replacement is a large-scale project that needs 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

To deliver the project we need to confirm an environmentally sensitive approach. We will then need to receive planning permission and funding.

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 in stage 1 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 will now apply for formal consents from the National Trust, Natural England and Historic England. Consent from these organisations has been agreed in principle.

Stage 3: Ecology assessments

Ecology assessments have been completed in 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

Once we receive sign off on the previous phases, we can hire a contractor. They will carry out the work and provide a final timeline for the delivery of the boardwalk replacement. 

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.