Plans revealed for new 10,000 home Norfolk town
- Credit: Archant
A town the size of Thetford could be built in mid Norfolk if new plans are realised, the EDP can reveal.
Norwich based planners Lanpro are preparing a proposal for a new settlement of up to 10,000 homes situated between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree, as part of government plans to back new garden towns.
A summary of the project seen by this newspaper describes the proposal for the 1,294 acre site as 'the first planned new settlement within Norfolk'.
Chris Leeming, managing director at Lanpro, said: 'We are told the government's call for sites for new garden towns is imminent, and this proposal will be submitted subject to local planning authority requirements and the government timelines.
'This spot in mid Norfolk has been chosen for the site as we have sifted several suitable areas and this scored the highest on the most criteria.
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'The size and number of homes to be built is yet to be decided but the aim is to deliver a balanced community with schools, shops and doctors surgeries included in the plans.'
He added the timeline and cost for the proposed build is unknown at this stage, as is whether the development would receive any government funding.
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Mr Leeming did not comment on whether the firm expected to be granted planning permission, and said: 'We are subject to all the normal processes and criteria plus the government guidelines.
'We hope to name the project in consultation with stakeholders.'
One aspect of the proposal was the suggestion that the town could be provided with rail links via a partnership with the Mid-Norfolk Railway (MNR) heritage line.
General manger George Saville said: 'We've made no commitment either way.
'We've been in discussions with Lanpro but there's been nothing substantial put on the table.
'The MNR could only make a proper decision once Lanpro know for definite.'
However, he added that bringing the stretch of line from Dereham to North Elmham had 'always been in the MNR's aspirations.'
A spokesperson for the MNR described talks as 'exploratory' and added: 'We are concerned that Lanpro have carried out no feasibility studies into this project to our knowledge.'
Lanpro confirmed that the costs of the work on the rail link, as well as the frequency and provider of the passenger service was yet to be agreed.
If approved, Lanpro say the site would be developed according to garden cities values, including: sustainable travel, community-led green spaces, energy efficiency, and low-carbon lifestyles.
But some have concerns about the impact a new town could have.
Bill Borrett, Breckland district councillor for Upper Wensum, said: 'This proposal for 10,000 houses would make it larger than Dereham and Fakenham together.
'I am extremely concerned by this proposal which will greatly affect communities and change the whole character of the area'
And David Hook, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: 'We're not in favour of the concept of new settlements, because in all of the Norfolk local plans currently, there are already huge amounts of land allocated for housing.
'There's no need to add to existing settlements. It's just another lot of greenfield sites to go under the concrete.
He added: 'The impact is huge. You lose a lot of countryside; you've got all the infrastructure to build; and the pressure on local services would be unbearable.
'The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (NNUH) is already under pressure and in none of these plans is there a new hospital.
'England is now more densely populated than Holland, and instead of suburbanising everywhere, it's vital to protect the places that are special.
'We need a tranquil Norfolk.'
A spokesperson for Breckland Council said: 'We have in the last month been made aware of this garden town proposal.
'We are open to discussing the concept of a new Norfolk garden town, as this has the potential to secure new homes for local residents and support growth.
'However, the council has not received any formal proposals to date and without this, alongside evidence of sustainability and public engagement, we are not currently in a position to give this concept detailed consideration.
'The council's draft local plan remains on track to be adopted towards the end of the year after recently being scrutinised by the Planning Inspector.
'It will identify a five year housing land supply and act as a blueprint for growth until 2036.'
What are garden towns, villages and cities?
A garden town is a development of more than 10,000 homes. Garden villages are smaller settlements of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes
By 2020, more than 25,000 housing starts are expected in garden villages, towns and cities supported by the government.
Homes are already being built in several locations, including Bicester, Basingstoke, Didcot, Otterpool Park in Kent, Ebbsfleet, Aylesbury, Taunton and North Northants.
The government last year expanded its commitment to the concept, with a £6m fund over two years to support a further 14 garden villages and £1.4m for three garden towns in Aylesbury, Taunton and Harlow/Gliston.
But the idea is not new. It dates back to the 19th century, when Ebenezer Howard proposed them as an alternative to urban slums.
Letchworth Garden Village was the world's first, in 1903, followed by Welwyn Garden City in 1920.
Garden villages already mooted for Norfolk
The idea of Norfolk having a garden settlement was first mooted in 2014, when urban designer David Rudlin called for Norwich to be one of dozens of towns to double in size and become a garden city.
Mr Rudlin's call for more garden cities found favour with former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who was appointed to run a new National Infrastructure Commission in 2015.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who was a local government minister at that time, said he was 'very keen' on the concept and national housing policy expert Lord Taylor, at a conference at Norwich Research Park, last year supported them.
As part of the process of putting together the Greater Norwich Local Plan - a blueprint for where new homes could be built in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk - garden villages have been mooted at Honingham Thorpe and near Hethel