Plan to build 8,000 new homes

An 8,000-home town could be built on greenfield land on the north-eastern outskirts of Norwich, plans revealed today.

Council bosses say the 400-hectare development, or several smaller developments, are necessary to meet Government housing targets and would be one of the main influences on the future of the controversial Northern Distributor Road.

Building Homes

But the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) today warned that the county could end up with the new houses but not the road.

Others have warned the new developments will not provide enough space for families and will become “the slums of tomorrow”.

The draft East of England plan (EEP), which details transport and development plans for the region up to 2021, says the NDR is a key step in creating thousands of new homes on the outskirts of the city.

It states: “New allocations will include a major urban expansion in the north-east sector of the urban fringe linked to major transport improvements.

“The core development will be master planned to provide a coherent new urban village.”

The urban village model relates to a large community built with the necessary services such as health and education included.

Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council and former chair of the East of England housing panel, said: “The north-east of the city is where the greatest capacity for new homes is.

“In terms of creating a separate new urban village with its own identity in the northern fringe, this will not happen without proper consultation with local parishes.

“Clearly there's going to have to be an awful lot of houses built. Some of those are going to be very close to Thorpe St Andrew and Sprowston.

“We will come to a situation whereby we will start to look at the infrastructure and decide whether it lends itself to extending the existing communities or whether it needs a new identity.

“We are reliant on the NDR to release that land in the northern sector. We have got terrible problems in Blue Boar Lane and the north-east of the city and any significant housing development would be foolhardy without road improvements.”

He said the decision over the new homes would come down to whether people put the environment first, or preferred to give families the chance to have their own homes in what is a highly pressurised housing market.

He added that building work on the new homes would start no sooner than 2010, by which time the council would have a clearer understanding of the future of the NDR and the housing need.

Mr Woodbridge admitted there were a limited number of greenfield sites on the outskirts of north east Norwich that could accommodate a 400-hectare development.

Hereward Cooke, the city council's housing chief, said housing development in and around Norwich were one of the main influences upon the future of the NDR.

Either way, councils had a duty to meet the East of England Development Agency's targets of building more than 400,000 homes in the region by 2020.

The city council would meet its 11,000-home requirement without building on green space and has offered Broadland and South Norfolk councils brownfield land to relieve pressures on building in the countryside.

However, a surplus need was inevitable, added Mr Cooke.

“On one hand councils want to be as green and protective of the environment as we can,” he said. “On the other hand we have to be aware of the pressures the regional and central governments are putting on us. It is a very difficult balance.”

Ian Shepherd, policy co-ordinator for CPRE Norfolk, said the major factor in terms of the Government providing funding for the NDR was that it would underpin new housing.

“But in their ambition to get the road councils are saying they can take a lot of housing, but they could end up with the new houses but not the road.

“I believe the authorities are going for too much housing growth, like this urban village, in the hope it will persuade the Government to pay for the NDR.

“There is a long wish list of roads in the region and there's a strong chance the NDR won't happen.”

The draft East of England plan was written by the East of England Regional Assembly and is going out for public examination on November 1, which will continue into the start of next year before the Government considers the plans and a period of public consultation starts.

Ann Wright, district and parish councillor for Sprowston, said she was very against more housing, whether it was an extension of Sprowston or somewhere new entirely.

“Cramming 30 to 50 homes in per hectare like the Government wants is a very tight distribution,” she said. “These places will become the slums of the future.”

Alan Fairchild, clerk to Sprowston Parish Council, said an 8,000-home development was as big as many market towns and seaside towns in Norfolk.

“The north-east fringe is fairly heavily populated as it is,” he said. “There's hardly anywhere left where they could build it.”

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said:“We've seen this happen before in Sprowston with new houses being built only for them to experience problems with traffic routes and the lack of availability of buses. Let's hope these issues become key priorities before planning permission is granted.”

Dennis Eley, Thorpe St Andrew Parish Council chairman, said he did not think the developments would affect his parish.

“There's no more room for houses here,” he said. “I don't know where they are going to build them.”

Norfolk County Council is expected to rubber-stamp plans for the NDR at a full meeting later this month .

The proposed route plans a dual carriageway linking the A47 at Postwick to the A140 Cromer Road, another dual carriageway linking the A140 Cromer Road and the A1067 Fakenham Road and a single carriageway between the A1067 Fakenham Road near Weston Longville to the A47 at Easton.

Funding for the £100 million NDR could be drawn from a number sources, including a private finance initiative, developer contributions and a Government grant. The proposals are destined to go to public inquiry.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The NDR is a fundamental part of the Norwich Area Transportation Strategy (NATS). NATS as a whole, including the NDR, is needed to cater for the needs of the existing population and development that is already planned.

“Therefore it is inconceivable to the county council that significant further growth could take place without it.

“Broadland District Council would take the lead in planning a new urban village.

“With transport, sub-regional planning, education and other service responsibilities we would certainly expect to assist in that process.”

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for planning and transport, said: “It's totally untrue that councils have jacked up the amount of housing in order to get funding for the NDR.

“The demand for the road is already there, we don't need more homes to prove that case.

“I do sympathise with the view that Norfolk has taken more projected growth than it can cope with, whether the Government will provide the money to upgrade the infrastructure to change that we will have to see.”

A total of 76,200 new homes are planned for Norfolk as part of the (EEP) - about 35,000 of which are planned for the greater Norwich area.

Andrew Boswell, a Green party county councillor in Norwich, said: “I think these plans are pretty disastrous.

“It's going to down to a question of what people want.

“Do they want to make Norwich even more congested or retain the unique Norfolk way of life?”

Evening News, 12 Sep, 2005

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