Does Our Region's countryside need protecting?
With the Joint Core Strategy in place for our region, over 36,000 new houses could be built by 2026 to cope with demand. From 2008, up to March of last year, nearly 10,000 homes were built in the Greater Norwich area and that number must now be increased again. Norwich alone could see 12,000 of this demand in the next 20 years. Plans are now in progress to source the sites in which these new houses can be built on.
This has sparked fear in many who worry for Norfolk's intrinsic identity of a rural landscape could now be at risk. Although authorities are arguing that brownfield sites are much more likely to be deemed suitable than open countryside, could a green belt still be needed in Norwich?
Green Belt Petition
The Campaign to Protect Rural England, (CPRE), have started a petition to see a green belt for Norwich is introduced, stating:
“As our local authorities begin the process of reviewing the recently adopted local plans for Norwich and its surrounding districts with the likelihood that they will have to accommodate even more growth beyond 2026 until 2036 on top of what we already consider to be excessive growth, it is now more urgent than ever that Norwich has a Green Belt in place to protect the setting of this historic city and the countryside from the onslaught of never ending development and the consequent urbanisation of this rural county.”
This petition now has nearly 900 signatures from locals sharing these same fears.
It’s these communal concerns which are seeing more and more local rejections to house building proposals. Already early this year saw the rejection of 83 new homes in the Costessey area. The proposal would have seen the properties built on farming land in the Tud River Valley, but the idea was rejected following a public outcry. 237 letters of complaint were received from residents in objection to the plans, ranging in reasons. The reason for refusal was voted as the visual impact the project would impose upon the valley. This concern echoes an overall feeling of an increasingly reduced rural identity for Norfolk. Other reasons for objection included an increase in pressure on community amenities such as health and education services, as well as an increased risk of flooding and increased congestion. Locals rejoiced at the announcement of the refusal.
Thorpe St Andrews Refusal
Another recent refusal includes the controversial proposal to convert Thorpe St Andrews' Oasis Leisure Centre into 27 new homes. Again, the backlash from residents played an important role in the rejection of these plans. The historic nature of the building was called into question with the proposal incorporating plans to demolish the main house and construct a completely new leisure centre with pool, gym, nursery and café. Resident complaints also included the traffic increase that would have more than likely been caused by the new plans. Broadland District Council received 15 letters of concern from local residents.
Proposals Push Forwards
With a push from local councils to landowners, developers and agents to make suggestions as to where the Joint Core Strategy's proposed 36,000 new houses by 2026 can be built, the face of Norwich is changing. With major developments already getting the green light, such as 900 new homes in Eaton, Lakenham Cricket Ground Development, in which work has begun for the construction of 75 new homes and planning permission granted to build 670 new homes in Trowse, including shops, restaurants and a pub. All of these projects have faced local opposition during the process, and with such a demand on housing, more and more are likely to be approved in the future. A green belt in Norwich would help protect the scenic countryside area most at risk and in turn safeguard our rural landscape.