‘It will be a strange day – as Bowthorpe stops being a work in progress’ - our second look at Norwich’s great unfinished estate. What do you think?
15:00 30 January 2013
It is 40 years since Norwich Corporation purchased 502 acres of land for £9.5m to develop the Bowthorpe estate. In the second part of our focus on the estate, Richard Wheeler reports on the past, the present and the future.
In response to early criticism aimed at Bowthorpe, one councillor remarked the area should be judged after 100 years.
But this was a comment from an era when the development’s three villages – Clover Hill, Chapel Break and Three Score – were expected to be built within 15 years.
A field transformed into a west Norwich community for 13,649 people, growing as one, creating their past and forging their future.
Proposals for up to 1,000 houses, including community facilities, a care home, at least one shop, roads and open space, at Three Score could be decided upon next month by Norwich City Council – the final piece of the Bowthorpe jigsaw.
If the application, from the council, is successful then in 10 to 12 years the area could be finished.
And despite Three Score being on the drawing board for 40 years, concerns about the impact it will have on those people living in the area have emerged.
Parking space, vehicle access, congestion, bus lanes, loss of green space used for recreation, flooding potential, impact of an increasing student population and ensuring services develop at the same time as the houses, are all issues raised in the latest consultation.
Ben Webster, design, conservation and landscape manager at Norwich City Council, said there had been a good response from the Bowthorpe community to the designs.
But Mr Webster said it has always been known that the green space for recreation was only ever a temporary area for residents to use.
He said: “What we are keen to do is ensure historic parkland associated with Bowthorpe Hall remains undeveloped and we use the opportunity, and some of the money negotiated by the new development, to do some work which will mean we can restore some of the features that make it clear that it’s historic and the area has this relationship with Bowthorpe Hall.
“For the past 40 years there was a clear published intention to develop this land and the residents were enjoying it temporarily as an open piece of land. The responsibility we have, even though it’s not going to be open or semi-rural, is now we need to make sure it feels close to the countryside, even though houses are nearby.”
Mr Webster said the aim was to develop more walking routes into the countryside to protect the River Yare. He said: “We want to make sure the extra pressure of people that want to walk down there will not harm it. That’s why we are looking at the surface of the path. We don’t want it to get churned up and muddy.” Mr Webster added: “I think as a long-term piece of planning although it has its failings, I think it’s a success. I’ve spoken to a lot of people in Bowthorpe who enjoy living there and the fact people are getting involved with us about the new development shows people care to make it as good as it can be.”
The initial aim was for residents from each village to look toward the Bowthorpe centre, while also having their needs met in their individual communities. But due to the delays in development, Margaret Camina said people in the area tended to look in different directions. Former city councillor Mrs Camina, who has studied the area throughout the years and had her research published, said: “I think the early residents did look at the main centre when it was Clover Hill and Chapel Break.
“I think when the new road Three Score was developed, those residents looked the other way. It’s been marketed in the other way – it’s been sold as close to the university, semi-rural rather than as the whole concept of Bowthorpe.”
Despite these perceived differences, there is a common theme of community expressed by those who have lived in the area for several years.
Sally Simpson, a retired teacher at City College, moved into Clover Hill in 1981 before moving closer to the centre of Bowthorpe in 1986.
She lived with her brother Ray between 1986 and 1996 before he moved to Lindisfarne, off the north east coast of England and close to the Scottish border.
Miss Simpson, of Bowthorpe Hall Road, said: “Chapel Break and Clover Hill are both a 50/50 mixture of private and social housing. In Three Score it will be 75pc private and the rest will be council or housing association, which in my opinion is a bit of a shame as I think it has worked having 50/50 mixed-build community and given people a voice and opportunity for leadership.”
Research has suggested more people stay for longer in Bowthorpe, leading to three generations of the same family living in the area.
And Miss Simpson said the community spirit was still strong. She said this was aided by the community groups and village halls, plus the church housing six denominations. Her brother Ray was licensed as Bowthorpe’s first full-time minister for nearly 200 years in 1978. Miss Simpson said Bowthorpe News, the community magazine she edits, also aims to be posted through the letterbox of every property. She said: “We still try to make sure in every single road in Bowthorpe there is somebody that cares for their street. That doesn’t always happen, but in quite a lot of places they will notice if someone is new and welcome them.”
Of the Three Score proposals, Miss Simpson said: “There does need to be very careful planning for that. It should go back to the master plan, which states that in Three Score there’s a school. I think that’s unlikely to happen.”
Documents from 1978 stated the new Bowthorpe development would house 13,649 people in 5,208 properties. Census data from 2011 shows there were 11,683 people living in 4,907 properties in the council’s Bowthorpe ward.
The council’s profile of Bowthorpe, based on a range of sources including police and Office of National Statistics figures, shows the crime and anti-social behaviour rates are lower than the Norwich average. But this does not stop people feeling slightly less safe in Bowthorpe at night compared to the rest of the city, the data adds.
There is a higher proportion of residents of the area who have no qualifications, although Bowthorpe beats the city average for the percentage of pupils passing five GCSEs, including English and Maths – 52.21pc compared to the 48.05pc in the city in 2011.
Life expectancy is 81.4 years for females living in Bowthorpe, compared to 83.2 years in Norwich. For Bowthorpe men, they can expect to live to 75.1 years, while in Norwich it is 77.7.
Beyond the numbers, Bowthorpe county councillor Paul Wells said: “It’s had a bumpy past, but as a community it has a lot more going for it than most people realise. There’s not very many places where you can be in the city in 20 or 30 minutes on a bus and be in beautiful fields in five minutes. It’s not unfair to say Bowthorpe has an unwarranted reputation.
“You do hear people say they think Bowthorpe is a rough area – but it’s a nice peaceful area with good community spirit centred around the Bowthorpe Centre and local shops.
“I think it’s one of those places that if people knew more about it, they would want to live here. That’s why so many people come to Bowthorpe and don’t leave.”
Mr Wells, of Chapel Break, said the development of the university, research park and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had had an impact and could increase the opportunities for people living in the area. He added: “It will be a strange day if these proposed houses [at Three Score] are built – as that’s the day Bowthorpe stops being a work in progress.”
What do you think of living in Bowthorpe? Email Richard Wheeler at email@example.com