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Mixed reaction over vision for 10,000 home new town in the heart of county

PUBLISHED: 17:16 22 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 22 July 2018

A map of the proposed new town's location in mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree. Photo: Lanpro

A map of the proposed new town's location in mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree. Photo: Lanpro

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News that a new 10,000 home garden town could be built in Norfolk has sparked a mixed reaction. DAN GRIMMER and DANIEL BENNETT report...

The prospect of thousands of new homes in a new settlement created in mid Norfolk has received a warm welcome from some, but also stiff opposition.

Norwich based planners Lanpro are preparing a proposal for a new settlement of up to 10,000 homes between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree, as part of a government drive to back new garden towns.

The proposal for the 1,294 acre site has been dubbed as “the first planned new settlement within Norfolk”, although plans have yet to be lodged.

Concerns over the proposal had already been expressed by Bill Borrett, Norfolk county councillor and Breckland district councillor, who said it would “greatly affect communities and change the whole character of the area”.

Mayor of Dereham Hilary Bushell has concerns about the proposals. She said: “The plans need a lot of careful consideration. The 10,000 homes came as a surprise as we weren’t expecting that many.

“We already have enough problems in Dereham with traffic and that would probably mean more people coming to the town. I’m mostly worried about the people in nearby villages and the impact it could have on our beautiful countryside.”

Fakenham’s mayor George Acheson believes that the lack of transport links in the area means that it would be difficult for a town that big to be built.

He said: “I’m very concerned about the urbanisation of rural Norfolk. It’s a nice idea to connect it to the Mid Norfolk Railway, but I would think the majority of people will use cars.

“How you would connect the town to the rest of Norfolk I’m not sure, the traffic to Norwich is already very bad from Fakenham. In my view you would need a lot of money spent on improving the roads.”

And Keith Simpson, Broadland MP, whose constituency neighbours where the town would be built, said: “I was fairly surprised by the sheer size of it and the impact it will have on villages which I know well.

“The questions which will need to be raised are important ones about water, sewerage, the roads and what sort of deal the developers will be offering.

“If doctor’s surgeries and schools are needed, are the developers going to pay for them? And how will all this fit in with Breckland Council’s own local development plan?”

Norwich-based developers Lanpro have said the aim is to “deliver a balanced community with schools, shops and doctor’s surgeries included in the plans”.

People who commented on Facebook, after the Eastern Daily Press exclusively revealed the proposals, had mixed opinions on the merits of the scheme.

Some were concerned that arable land would be lost, but others said the need for housing was such that options such as garden towns needed to be explored.

Paul Osborne said: “Garden villages sound very quaint but they usually mean plonking a town in prime arable land with little thought given to infrastructure.”

And Diane Westwood-Rowland commented: “More stable land lost. How are we going to feed the population in future? The loss to wildlife will be vast.”

Joy Waddingham agreed: “Apart from another big new ugly estate, using up our food/growing land resources, what about the infrastructure and jobs needed?

“Where I live, in an established community we travel miles to a dentist as local ones are full, also there is no local work. There are lots of empty shops in towns, why can these not be renovated as homes?”

But Vincent Jones commented: “Good stuff. Plenty of employment for years.”

And Proinseas O Caoimh said homes would have to be built somewhere to cope with the growing population. They said: “So we complain about the ongoing homelessness in the county then complain that new houses are going to be built. Can’t have it both ways.

However, Sam Cranmer was not convinced. He said: “Really hope that common sense prevails and a totally ridiculous idea for a development like this never ever goes ahead.”

But Nick Barran was in favour. He said: “Great idea, keep the area booming. Make sure a new hospital, doctor’s surgery, three supermarkets, fire station, ambulance station and a swimming pool are built first.”

The timeline and cost for the proposed build is unknown at this stage, as is whether the development would receive any government funding.

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