Dereham Town Council has taken the first step to completing a Neighbourhood Plan by submitting an area application to Breckland Council.

The plan will enable the town council to shape where new development will go and what it will look like.

It is seen as a way of preventing savvy developers from targeting districts where the local authority has yet to formalise a five-year supply of housing.

The move to get the Neighbourhood Plan in place in Dereham has been brought in response to a number of large scale planning applications and scoping applications on green field sites in and around the town.

After consideration and consultation with neighbouring parishes the town council has submitted the civil parish of Dereham as the area to be covered in the plan with its main purpose 'to assist the parish of Dereham to develop in a sustainable way maintaining both a sense of place and quality of life.'

To do this it aims to balance residential development and job creation, give all parts of the town access to good quality open spaces and to the wider footpath network, support good cycle and walking routes and ensure an adequate provision of community facilities and services in relation to its growth.

Town clerk Tony Needham said it would take six weeks for the area application to be processed but they were looking to appoint some consultants to carry out the work and would be engaging the public to gauge their views on the future of the town.

'For a town this size we need to get planning consultants involved to make sure it is done properly,' he said. 'There will be lots of consultation and we really want to get the people of Dereham involved.'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said town, village and neighbourhood plans reflected local needs.

He said: 'When created in consultation with local people these Local Plans are the best way to prevent aggressive overdevelopment as planning applications that do not comply with a Local Plan, and or fail the Government's sustainability tests, will be rejected.'