Homes plans would 'swamp' towns - claim

A far-reaching set of house building proposals revealed last night could “swamp” several existing East Anglian towns and permanently change the face of the region's countryside.

THETFORD would be “swamped” if far-reaching housing plans which would more than double the size of the town ever came into effect, it was claimed this week.

Shock figures have been published by the East of England Regional Assembly, which invited developers to send in wish lists of what they want to build in the coming years.

The plans earmark a staggering 15,000 new homes for Thetford, compared to the current plan for 6,000.

Other Norfolk communities also face massive development with Wymondham almost trebling in size and 12,000 homes built at the former RAF Coltishall.

None of the projects is set in stone, but their very existence caused outrage across the region, prompting concern about infrastructure provision, water resources and the destruction of greenfield sites.

The proposals will be fed into a review of the East of England Plan, also known as the regional spatial strategy, which will identify housing development figures through until 2031.

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The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU) has suggested Norfolk will need to build an extra 67,000 homes by 2031, on top of 74,700 extra houses already in the pipeline over the next 18 years.

Proposals also suggest an unknown number of homes near East Harling, including on the former Roudham Airfield, and 4,000 homes to the east of Bury St Edmunds.

Stuart Wright, chairman of the Thetford Society, said the plans would swamp Thetford.

There had been much-touted plans to expand with 6,000 homes, so to replace this figure in the minds of locals with one of 15,000 would be deeply unwelcome, he told the Times.

“We are trying to raise the town's aspirations at the moment; to have this forced on us would be a negative step. It would alter the nature of the town greatly, which currently stands at around 10,500 homes. This will not be well received in the town.”

Adrian Gunson, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for planning and transport, said: “These housing figures are beginning to get into cloud cuckoo land.”

“These types of development would be wholly undesirable, damaging to the particular attractiveness of the Norfolk environment, impractical and unfeasible.

“I think the vast majority of Norfolk people will regard this as just plain crazy. EERA has does this the wrong way round, looking at the end result of numbers before looking at the potential implications.”

Ian Shepherd, planning policy co-ordinator at the Norfolk branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), said the new figures clearly needed rethinking.

“This is pie in the sky, finger in the wind. To keep ladling in more and more homes, swamping whole areas and entire towns, leaves me worried about the mindset of some people in higher levels of government.

“Everybody recognises the need for affordable homes, but the key thing is how to achieve that. I don't believe the road the government is travelling is the right one.”

Derrick Ashley, chairman of EERA's regional planning panel, insisted the published list was simply a list of submissions from developers and it did not mean the assembly was supportive of the proposals.

“The proposals from developers are just one of many sources of information EERA and councils will be testing to make a general assessment of future housing needs.

“The overall evidence will be used to help develop broad options for new housing development in the region up to 2031, which will be published for public consultation in Spring 2009.”

To view the EERA document outlining the proposals, log on to:

http://www.eera.gov.uk

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