There could be a rush to build new homes as Norfolk is long way behind building target

The number of new homes built in Norfolk has fallen over the last ten years.

The number of new homes built in Norfolk has fallen over the last ten years. - Credit: Archant © 2005

A master plan drawn up to shape two decades of key housing growth in Norfolk is behind schedule, which could start a property-building gold rush as planners try to catch up, an investigation can today reveal.

The Greater Norwich Development Partnership's (GNDP) blueprint outlines where more than 37,000 homes should be built in the city and parts of Broadland and south Norfolk up to 2026 to cope with the rising population and housebuilding shortfall.

However, at the start of a week-long look into the state of the region's housing sector, it has emerged just 9,459 of the homes had been completed by March last year, eight years into the 18 year scheme.

That means to meet the goal, 2,829 homes will now need to be built each year for the remaining decade –almost double the 1,182 currently achieved – bringing concerns that communities already fed up with development will have to brace themselves for a glut of housebuilding to catch up.

Housing experts have warned that if the homes, which it was hoped would be developed alongside 27,000 new jobs, are not delivered, it could see house prices continue to rise, making it near impossible for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

The GNDP, made up of Broadland District Council, South Norfolk Council and Norwich City Council working with Norfolk County Council, admitted a slowdown in house-building brought on by the recession has hampered efforts to deliver more.

But they say they were not far off trajectory targets and remained confident they would meet the deadline.

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A spokesman said: 'The number of houses being built is increasing across greater Norwich. Over the last three years the number of houses with planning permission has risen sharply, to almost 14,000 just in the Norwich policy area, and local plan documents allocating further sites were adopted in October last year, with further adoptions likely to follow in the next few months.

'The greater Norwich authorities are therefore confident that the shortfall, which is due largely to the impacts of the recession, will be recovered, and the 2026 targets met.'

The 37,000 homes are a large proportion of about 117,000 homes forecast for Norfolk and Suffolk before 2026, according to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) strategy for the area.

Earlier this year concerns were raised that the target for the whole region was way off being met. The majority of the greater Norwich development, more than 32,000 homes, will be built in the Norwich Policy Area, as illustrated on the map, left, with thousands extra planned further into Broadland and South Norfolk.

In the north, the bulk of the housing is largely concentrated into a growth triangle around Rackheath, with homes in the south scattered around towns. The figures confirm some communities face being at the beginning of a decade of development upheaval – including Hethersett, which, as of March last year, had at least 1,300 homes yet to be built.

Paula Higgins, founder of the Home Owners Alliance, which champions homebuyers and owners, said it was 'vital' the house-building targets were met.

'The whole reason why the price of housing is so expensive is because we have not been building enough for years,' she said. 'It's really critical that, especially as this has been identified as the need, that these targets are met. This is exactly why we have such a dysfunctional housing market.'

Sites for the 37,000 homes, to be built between April 2008 and March 2026, were decided using factors including access to employment opportunities and transport links, a minimal impact on habitats and no flooding problems.

Work on the joint core strategy began in 2007, was adopted in 2011 and updated in 2013 after a legal challenge over plans to build 10,000 homes in the north-east Norwich growth triangle.

In other features during the week, we will reveal a shortage of affordable homes and a warning over the impact on our stretched road network. Tomorrow, we'll look at ambitious plans to tackle the housebuilding shortage across Norfolk. On Saturday, we'll talk to housing minister Brandon Lewis about East Anglia's housing problems.

•We want to know your experiences of the housing shortage in the region. Email