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Fears over whether Norfolk’s market towns will be able to cope with thousands of new homes

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:38 20 March 2017

Studies are to be carried out in market towns like Wymondham to see if their transport infrastructure is good enough. 
Photo: Bill Smith

Studies are to be carried out in market towns like Wymondham to see if their transport infrastructure is good enough. Photo: Bill Smith

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Fears that Norfolk’s market towns might not have good enough roads to cope with thousands of new homes have triggered a series of special studies to tackle the potential problem.

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee. Pic: Submitted. Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee. Pic: Submitted.

Council bosses are worried that, with 30,000 new homes due to be built in towns and villages, such as Wymondham, Thetford, Dereham, Long Stratton, Aylsham, Acle and Horsford within decades, pressures will be heaped on road networks.

Almost 190,000 people live in Norfolk’s market towns, according to the last census, which is almost a quarter of the county’s population.

And Norfolk County Council chiefs want to make sure those towns are “future fit”, with transport networks that can support further growth.

They are planning to carry out studies, three or four each year, of specific towns to prioritise what traffic improvements are needed.

Thetford town mayor Terry Jermy. Thetford town mayor Terry Jermy.

That could include:

• Changes to existing roads, junctions and streets

• New roads

• More routes for walking and cycling

Cllr Joe Mooney, Wymondham. Cllr Joe Mooney, Wymondham.

• Intelligent transport systems - to optimise performance of public transport

• Driver information systems to help manage car parking

Martin Wilby, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s environment, development and transport committee, said: “This is about planning for the future. We recognise that most of our market towns are going to have development. We want to talk to them, recognising the transport problems and issues they have now and future issues.”

A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said: “The studies will be very important because they will bring all local stakeholders together to examine current issues affecting the towns, the future pressures that the towns are likely to face, and to identify a broad range of solutions to these in the short, medium and longer term.”

A programme for the studies will be decided upon in June. Each study would cost £20,000. Council bosses hope that the studies will help with future funding bids to deal with issues.

Bert Bremner, Labour county councillor for Norwich’s University ward, said the scheme was “fantastic”.

Across the border, Suffolk is planning for 70,000 new homes by 2031.

Case Study: Thetford

Controversy raged over future development in Thetford, with legal challenges to the blueprint for development in the town.

The Thetford Area Action Plan centres on building 5,000 homes to the north of the town, and Shadwell Estates launched a legal challenge to Breckland Council’s strategy.

However, the High Court upheld it and permission was granted for the KingsFleet development, complete with a £150m agreement to provide infrastructure and community facilities.

Mayor of Thetford, councillor Terry Jermy, said: “I think everybody accepts there is going to be elements of growth in the town but what most people are concerned about is whether the improvements to infrastructure comes after the growth.

“The studies are a good idea, but the point I made in a committee is having studies planned is all well and good, but what’s really important is to deliver those plans and how are we going to fund it.”

Case Study: Wymondham

Wymondham is due for major expansion between now and 2026, with blueprints for growth planning for at least 2,200 new homes.

And the town is also earmarked to take almost 50 acres of employment land.

Joe Mooney, Wymondham Northfields ward councillor, welcomed the studies of the market towns.

He said: “We have got to have the infrastructure that goes along with the growth.

“It will really affect the roads along the A11 and Thickthorn roundabout, residents will need to cope with the increased traffic.

“I think it is always good to consult the local people, I hope they come up with a plan that will hopefully erase their concerns and gets a system in place that suits motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

“It is not all about car users, there needs to be bus travel and the plan may well include all these things.”

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