September 21 2014 Latest news:
Andrew Fitchett, Reporter
Friday, April 4, 2014
Outline plans to add up to 5,000 homes and jobs to Norfolk’s fourth-largest town have been approved after a special meeting.
The Thetford Sustainable Urban Extension plan was backed by members of Breckland Council at a meeting in the town today.
Members were 10 to one in favour of the plans, which will see 5,000 homes, three primary schools, 19.5 hectares of employment land and infrastructure improvements brought in over the next 25 years. The houses will be developed in five phases.
Around 50 members of the public were given an overview of the plans by Simon Wood, from Breckland Council’s planning department.
During the presentation he revealed that the affordable housing allotment for the project would be 8.9 per cent.
That is despite planning consultants, DTZ, recommending a figure of 15 per cent. Breckland’s affordable housing policy requires that 40 per cent of houses built on new developments must be affordable.
Frank Sharpe, Breckland councillor for Swaffham, said that figure would be further split between affordable housing and shared equity housing. He quizzed planners, Pigeon, on the figure.
“Breckland says we should be looking for 2,000 affordable homes on this project but we have heard that’s not doable and we accept that,” he said.
“But going from 2,000 down to 300 is a hell of a drop. Whose idea was it to split that housing quota 60 to 40?”
William van Cutsem, from Pigeon, said the affordable housing figure had been chosen openly in consultation with Breckland to make sure the project was “viable”.
“We did all this on an open book basis so as to be totally transparent. We looked at the amount of affordable housing that we needed and worked with Breckland to pick an appropriate figure,” he said.
Paul Jackson, Breckland Planning Manager, said the 8.9 per cent figure was open to change in future.
“We’ll have 15 per cent going in the first phase and then once 80 per cent of the scheme is complete, we can reassess the situation,” he said.
Representatives from several councils spoke at the meeting, including Thetford, Croxton, and Kilverstone and Brettenham.
Speakers from groups such as the Thetford Society and Norwich Road Residents’ Association also gave their views on the plans.
Stuart Wilson, from the Thetford Society, raised concerns about the impact on birdlife in the area.
“No stone curlew were recorded nesting on the land for the proposed development. But who did the survey? Not the RSPB but a private company hired by the developers.
“If they found no nesting stone curlew, why have the developers offered land in mitigation?” he said.
Bob King, from Croxton Parish Council, said his council were concerned that the development would create a “dormitory town”, due it to being restricted to the north and east of the town.
Further concerns were raised about the upkeep of pedestrian routes, the proper allocation of the £156m Section 106 money being paid by the developers, and the effect on the town’s utilities.
Mr van Cutsem told the meeting that these issues had been considered during the two year consultation process.
He added that the benefit of the new housing to the town centre would outweigh its drawbacks.
Up to 25,000 construction jobs and 5,000 other jobs would be created by scheme, according to Mr van Cutsem.
The developers - Pigeon and the Crown and Kilverstone estates - will now have to submit individual, detailed, planning applications for each phase of the plan.
Were you at the meeting? What do you think of the plans? Let us know by emailing reporter Andrew Fitchett on firstname.lastname@example.org