Mix of views on planned major expansion of Fakenham
A public consultation into a massive expansion of Fakenham has begun.
ADAM LAZZARI finds out more.
There can be few developments in Fakenham's history that will have such a huge impact on the town as this.
And there are few projects which have polarised opinion in Fakenham as much as North Norfolk District Council's (NNDC) plans to allocate land between Rudham Stile Lane and the A148 for up to 900 homes, potentially growing the town's 7,300 population, by around 20pc. Some welcome the plan as 'exactly what Fakenham needs', bringing desperately needed housing, new business and employment opportunities and extra customers to existing businesses in the town.
Others are concerned that it will badly impact on Fakenham residents' way of life, increase traffic on the roads and result in a rise in unemployment levels in the town.
Such feelings will, no doubt, be echoed in other parts of north Norfolk in future years.
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NNDC has earmarked several parts of the district for housing development in the next 10 years to meet the needs of a growing population,
The Fakenham development is the largest and the furthest developed of all the plans.
Other proposals over the next 10 years include plans for up to 450 homes at the former HL Foods site on Norwich Road, North Walsham; up to 250 homes on land off the A148 adjacent to Hempstead Road Industrial Estate in Holt; and up to 160 homes between Ingham Road and Yarmouth Road in Stalham.
People have been learning more about the Fakenham development since NNDC opened a public consultation on Monday.
A draft development brief has been published detailing the council's vision to 'create a well-balanced, sustainable community that is integrated with Fakenham and influenced by its existing character'.
The plans include up to 900 homes, with possibility for up to 45pc of those to be affordable homes, a new primary school, a community centre, nursery, convenience store, offices, industrial development, open spaces, sports pitches, children's play areas, two parks and possibly a hotel.
Mark Ashwell, NNDC planning policy manager, said: 'This is the largest development that Fakenham will have seen for many decades.
'It was first talked about several years ago and we did not get the feeling that there was a massive amount of local opposition to it.
'People have been expecting this sort of development to happen in Fakenham since the 1980s and it is widely acknowledged that there is a desperate need in the area for housing.'
Mr Ashwell expects no building work to be carried out for another two years and for the whole project to be phased over a period of about 10 to 12 years.
He said the site, in the north of Fakenham, was chosen because the south of the town was more environmentally sensitive.
He added that great efforts were being made to make the project sustainable.
Mr Ashwell said: 'There is already a brand new medical centre, a new pub and restaurant and a Morrisons supermarket in the north of Fakenham.
'And the town has a good track record of attracting investment. The George Edwards Road Industrial Estate, for example, is very well used. When the development is completed Fakenham will still be a small market town and people will still be able to enjoy a rural lifestyle.'
Many Fakenham residents are, however, more sceptical.
Patrick Sheppard, 64, from Silverlands Close, said: 'I've lived in Fakenham for 27 years and I've been used to enjoying this lovely green belt land and wonderful views of the countryside.
'It will be such a shame to lose this and I really hope the council takes residents' views on board before they go ahead.'
Sylvia Cooper, 61, from Smiths Lane, said: 'I am in favour of the principle of extra development but I'm not sure if this is the right project for the town. I don't think the town centre can cope with all of these extra people and I don't know where they are all going to work.'
Janet Holdom, deputy mayor of Fakenham, and town rector, The Rev Adrian Bell are both in favour of the development.
Ms Holdom, who lives on Field Lane, said: 'I am personally positive about the building programme because of the amenities and infrastructure that will come with it.
'I have expressed to the district council my hopes for a swimming pool in the town, which could help to improve people's health and well-being.'
Rev Bell said: 'This is exactly what Fakenham needs; more homes and a boost to businesses.'
Mr Ashwell said when the consultation ended, on April 23, people's comments would be looked at by a working party within the district council and amendments would be made to the plans if necessary.
The document can be seen at www.northnorfolk.org/majordevelopments
Comments on the plan can be addressed to: Major Developments Team, North Norfolk District Council, Holt Road, Cromer, NR27 9EN or by e mail to email@example.com.