How is Hethersett coping with hundreds of new homes?
- Credit: Bill Smith - Archant
Tens of thousands of new homes are going to be built across Norfolk and Suffolk in the next decade. Hethersett, where hundreds of new builds are already going up, gives us a glimpse of what is to come.
In a wheat field off Hethersett Road to the west of the village the only sound breaking the birdsong is the grinding of diggers.
The land is safe from the builders for now, but a few yards away newly built red-brick homes look out on to the gold and green fields which mark the village's new boundary.
Hethersett is undergoing massive housebuilding.
Around 1,100 new homes were given planning permission in 2013 on land to the north of the village on Back Lane and to the west.
South Norfolk District Council's latest call for sites to be put forward for development includes 1,000 acres of land around Hethersett, Great Melton and Cringleford. That would double the size of Hethersett.
Not all of that land will be built on, but people in the village can expect several more years of building.
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Almost 900 new homes were built in South Norfolk last year, more than anywhere else in Norfolk.
'I came here 24 years ago and have seen rapid development,' says Jacky Sutton, chairman of the parish council.
The population could go from its current 6,000 to 9,000 over the next seven years, according to Miss Sutton.
'Villages are expanding into towns so they are no longer the same community,' she says.
'There is huge pressure on schools and roads. The schools I think will be sorted but you can't expand a village centre - there is a huge problem with congestion.'
But there is some help available.
The parish council is receiving £135,000 in Section 106 money from new homes being built at Great Melton.
That money is ring fenced to spend on recreation in the area.
•A new school
A new school is also going to be built alongside the new homes but not until September 2019 at the earliest.
'At the moment we're just about alright (with school placements),' says new mum Danielle Bolster, 36. 'I don't know whether that would be the case if it's all built up. Some people have told me to book my child's school placement early – he is nine months.'
Two village schools - Woodside Infant and Nursery School and Hethersett Junior School - will both become all through primary schools with nurseries taking children aged from 2 to 11.
Woodside will move to where new homes are being built north of the village.
Around £450,000 for the project is coming from contributions from developers.
But pressure from a growing population is telling at the GP surgery.
Patients there report having to wait three weeks for an appointment and the parish council has written to NHS England about a lack of capacity.
'Health is a big issue for the community, says Miss Sutton. 'They are used to having a really good service.'
Leader of South Norfolk Council John Fuller says trying to get GP surgeries expanded alongside developments is frustrating.
That responsibility lies with NHS England rather than the council.
But he says in future the council may buy the land, build on it themselves and the lease it back to the NHS to provide more health services.
Mr Fuller says the council is building the facilities to go with the development in South Norfolk, citing the long-awaited bypass at Long Stratton and thousands of pounds spent on Wymondham and Long Stratton leisure centres.
He says the building will continue - people need more homes - but once the Northern Distributor Road is finished north of Norwich, the balance of house building in the region should shift north to Broadland District Council area.
And he says despite the new homes built, South Norfolk is still in the top 50 in the latest Halifax Quality of Life Survey.
'Our trick is to maintain quality of life alongside housing growth,' he says.
And villages already like Hethersett may get a respite in the future.
'We've got to deliver the homes already planned close to Norwich but after that we have got a dilemma,' he says.
'Do we continue to go closer to Norwich or do we recognise that more homes in more villages need to come into the mix?'
He wants to encourage building on more smaller sites across south Norfolk rather than just around the villages close to Norwich.
'We can't keep larding on more and more and more homes on the same settlements that have had them up until now.
'It needs to be a more even spread. Even if smallest ones just have a few self build plots.'
•What do people in Hethersett say?
•Jean Didwell, 65, Hethersett
'New housing puts a strain on all services; when these developments are made there isn't the infrastructure in place to deal with the developments.'
•Jenny Fell, 66, Hethersett
'There's a lot of pressure on local shops in particular because people can't park there anymore. My biggest gripe is the doctors; you have to wait three weeks for an appointment – which is bad. Of course if there's going to be more, then there's going to be more impact on the schools.'
•Beverley Canner, 48, Great Ellingham
'My customers are vulnerable adults, and they have great difficulty getting in emergency services. It's like all villages, it's oversubscribed.'