Residents concerned about future development which could see their town’s population rise by 15pc were out in force at a council meeting to decide its response to a South Norfolk local plan.

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Many feared that Harleston did not have the infrastructure to cope, while others were concerned that proposed estates would turn their own into rat runs.

The town has been designated for another 200-300 houses by 2023 (which include the 120 homes recently approved near Briar Farm in Mendham Lane).

Harleston Town Council accepted the need for some growth but expressed several concerns in its official response, agreed at the meeting on Wednesday, to the ‘South Norfolk Local Plan – Site Specific Allocations and Policies’, which sets out preferred sites for development.

Among its concerns were the inclusion of two areas marked as “reasonable alternative” sites – one between the Starston road and Maltings Drive, and the other off Jays Green – which it said were outside the development boundary and “seem to indicate... that an extension of the development boundary may be under consideration”, adding that it was “most anxious not to see this happen”.

The council also raised traffic safety concerns related to proposed housing off Spirketts Lane, which is used by lorries accessing the industrial estate, adding that a planned lorry park beside the industrial estate could increase the number of heavy goods vehicles using the road.

Reading out the town council’s recommendations, chairman Eric Bird said: “The town council is in favour of planned developnment of the town, provided facilities and services can be maintained to meet the increased population growth.

“The proposed housing numbers could lead to a population increase of 15pc or more and, whilst medical services and schools have indicated that they could cope with the additional people, several problems remain.”

These included concerns about public transport, drainage and car parking and the lack of employment, especially for young people.

He said the council backed efforts by Harleston and District Business Forum to modify the proposed uses of one of the sites (beside the A143) to allow for a business park with office space for hi-tech and professional companies.

He added that more people meant the town would need expanded leisure and recreation facilities and welcomed the proposed community orchard/woodland in Rushall Road.

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