Homes plans could '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.

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.

The plans could see Wymondham almost trebled in size, Thetford more than doubled in size and 12,000 homes built at the former RAF Coltishall, despite the fact a previous eco-town plan only ever sought to build 10,000 homes.

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

The 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 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. As reported in the EDP last week, 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.

Among 20 Norfolk and eight Suffolk proposals, developers have said they want to build:

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15,000 homes in Thetford, compared to the current plan for 6,000

10,000 homes in Wymondham, compared to the current plan of 3,000

12,000 homes at the former RAF Coltishall airbase, a plan which had previously only identified 10,000 as a maximum

2,800 homes at Leziate, near King's Lynn, on a site which has never been discussed in public as a potential development area

2,750 homes on the Weston Longville Airfield, which currently houses a Bernard Matthews poultry site

8,000 homes to the south of Attleborough, where residents had previously only known about a figure of 4,000

An unknown number of homes near East Harling, including on the former Roudham Airfield

4,000 homes to the east of Bury St Edmunds

The proposals have been lodged by major developers and their partners, including Savills, Bidwells, Carter Jonas, Hopkins Homes, Barratt Partnerships, Barton Wilmore and Gable Developments.

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

“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.”

Speaking specifically about the high profile plan at the former RAF Coltishall, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “We were utterly shocked and dismayed at the possibility of up to 10,000 homes there under the eco-town proposal.

“For it to come back in this context with even more houses leaves me completely gobsmacked.”

And commenting on the wider list of plans, Mr Lamb added: “More homes are needed, but it is the scale which is so shocking.

“These ideas smack of attractive proposals for the developers, but not for the communities.”

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: