Protest over land plans

Council chiefs who have been accused of wanting to “asset strip” Dereham of its green spaces in order to build homes have said even more land could be brought to the table for developing.

Council chiefs who have been accused of wanting to “asset strip” Dereham of its green spaces in order to build homes have said even more land could be brought to the table for developing.

Breckland Council's cabinet on Tuesday agreed to up to £130,000 being spent on a scheme to get planning permission for, and sell off, 11 pockets of council-owned green open space in the town and a number of villages in the district.

The scheme has been labelled illogical after it was revealed earlier this month that the district, and Dereham in particular, had a lack of green open space, especially children's play areas.

And, on Tuesday night, Dereham Town Council said it should be the people of the town who should decide what should happen to the land.

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Breckland council insists there will be public consultation on the sites as they would have to go through standard planning procedures to be built on for affordable homes and that none were a done deal.

But Dereham councillors Robin Goreham and Michael Fanthorpe, whose ward has four of the 11 sites, say the potential benefits are minimal compared to the loss residents would see and that there was already a proven lack of open green space in the town. He said Dereham was 52 acres short of open space, according to national standards.

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“At the end of the day, what is the potential benefit?” he said. “And you have to set that against the benefit of those sites to local people. There is no logic to it.

“These pieces of land are integral to the estates they are on. People deserve a bit of green. Losing it will cause antagonism and reduce amenity.”

John Gretton, chairman of Dereham Town Council, said on Tuesday night that in 2005, when looking at this scheme, the whole town council had been against all or any disposal of amenity land. “The council considered the land belonged to the rate payers and that they should have a say whether the land should be retained or sold,” he told the town council.

Mr Fanthorpe said: “The cabinet members do not care about Dereham. Not one member lives in Dereham.

“There are plenty of places to build social housing on without asset-stripping our town and, indeed, the rest of Breckland.”

He said the Boyd Avenue estate was built in 1962, it was a model estate and the green area was integral to it.

The town council decided to write to Breckland reiterating its comments of 2005.

Sites identified for develop-ment in Dereham are at Boyd Avenue, Girling Road, Howlett Close, Moorgate Road and South Green Gardens.

Elswhere in Breckland the sites are at: Cubbits Close, Bintree; Coronation Terrace, Caston; Swan Drive, Gress-enhall; Burghwood Drive, Mileham; Sandringham Way, Swaffham; and Church Close, Whissonsett.

And the cabinet meeting was told that there would be more land to be looked at for development in the future.

William Nunn, leader of the council said: “Clearly the planning process will involve the opportunity for public representation.

“Should planning permission be granted, the council will need to consider the relative value of the land, as either an opportunity

to provide much-needed housing or as a public open space.”

One of the council's own studies recently said the district as a whole has a lack of open space, with every parish but Guist failing to meet national guidelines.

What do you think? Write to the Dereham Times. Bond House, 31 High Street, Dereham NR19 1DZ or e-mail with your views.

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