Fears have been raised that certain Norfolk communities could be swamped with hundreds of new homes - because developers are blocked from building housing in other parts of the county.

Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason Billig warned some towns and villages are being saddled with "speculative" applications for housing developments - because other areas have been rendered off-limits due to anti-pollution directives.

Eastern Daily Press: Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County CouncilKay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council (Image: Norfolk County Council)

The Conservative leader raised her concerns that areas such as Loddon and Chedgrave, where a scheme for 180 homes was agreed despite opposition this week, are being targeted by developers amid the ongoing issue of nutrient neutrality.

That issue - triggered more than a year ago following a directive by government advisors Natural England - means councils cannot currently approve housing schemes in areas within the catchment of the Broads and River Wensum.

Eastern Daily Press: The directive aims to stop pollutants which can harm habitats in the BroadsThe directive aims to stop pollutants which can harm habitats in the Broads (Image: Archant)

Loddon, along with Acle, Diss and Harleston are among the biggest settlements outside those catchment areas where decisions over housing are still being taken.

Councils have been told decisions cannot be taken over homes within the catchment areas until it can be shown that mitigation is in place to balance out the pollutants which would be created by new homes, such as from wastewater.

READ MORE: How two words left Norfolk's plans for thousands of homes in limbo

Councils have formed a joint venture with Anglian Water to provide that mitigation, through measures such as new wetland, which developers will be able to buy "credits" towards.

Eastern Daily Press: Decisions on housing cannot be made in these catchment areas until mitigation is in placeDecisions on housing cannot be made in these catchment areas until mitigation is in place (Image: Natural England)

But it has yet to award its first credits and Mrs Mason Billig, who represents Loddon and Chedgrave at County Hall, said areas not within the catchment areas have been left vulnerable.

She said: "The nutrient neutrality issue means places like Loddon, which don't fall within that area are now subject to speculative development.

"We are looking at quite substantial development sites, if we are going to be the ones to take all the housing for South Norfolk and it looks like that could be the possibility here."

Eastern Daily Press: LoddonLoddon (Image: Nick Butcher/Newsquest)

Mervyn Pointer, a Loddon town councillor, said: "As Loddon is excluded from the zone that is impacted by nutrient neutrality, we are very concerned that South Norfolk Council has left Loddon vulnerable to speculative planning applications.

"Since 2021, the Beccles Road area has been subjected to a barrage of speculative housing applications."

He said, in addition to the 180 approved this week, there is another application for 130 nearby which has yet to be determined.

And he said the parish council had just been told a planning application for another 100 houses was about to be lodged.

Eastern Daily Press: People in Loddon fear 'speculative' housing developmentPeople in Loddon fear 'speculative' housing development (Image: Chris Bishop)

He said: "That's an additional 410 dwellings in the Beccles Road area. Where will this end?

"Our heritage town needs to be protected by South Norfolk Council to ensure it retains its identity and does not become a collection of disparate and unconnected housing developments."

Eastern Daily Press: Phil CourtierPhil Courtier (Image: Simon Finlay Photography)

Senior planning officer Phil Courtier, director of place for Broadland and South Norfolk Councils, said the council was taking action to address the nutrient neutrality issue.

He said: "I can understand Mrs Mason Billig's concerns and, if we were sitting on our hands doing nothing, I think we would see pressure on places such as Loddon and Diss in South Norfolk and Acle in Broadland.

Eastern Daily Press: LoddonLoddon (Image: Nick Butcher)

"But we are not sitting on our hands. The joint venture is well established now and we are looking to secure our first deal in the next few weeks.

"When we are able to release the first tranche of credits, that will give some clarity and confidence to developers that the model will work."

Eastern Daily Press: Sam Chapman-AllenSam Chapman-Allen (Image: Breckland District Council)

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller and Breckland District Council leader Sam Chapman-Allen recently wrote to Rishi Sunak about the nutrient neutrality issue.

The Conservative pair - and eight other senior leaders from councils of various political hues - called for the prime minister to intervene to end the 17-month planning limbo.

Eastern Daily Press: Rishi SunakRishi Sunak (Image: Archant)

They said 41,000 homes across Norfolk have been put on hold because of the issue and that local builders' merchants had laid off staff.

And they warned mitigation packages put in place in other parts of the country had raised new house prices by up to £10,000.



For more than a year, councils in Norfolk have not been allowed to approve proposals for new homes to be built within the catchment areas of the River Wensum and/or the Broads.

With the River Wensum stretching some 30 miles from near Fakenham, to Norwich, and the Broads taking up almost 75,000 acres, that is a massive area in which decisions over new homes have simply ground to a halt.

It has happened because government advisor Natural England was concerned housing developments could cause more nutrients to flow into waterways, harming species.

Clearly that is something to be concerned about. The Broads are hugely important to Norfolk and nobody wants damage to be done to them, or to the River Wensum, through pollution.

But this really has had far-reaching consequences on our county. While major developments, like the Norwich Anglia Square scheme, have been approved because the developers can afford to provide their own mitigation, it has created huge headaches over other schemes.

They are blocked from going ahead until mitigation measures have been put in place.

Councils have joined forces with Anglian Water to form a joint venture, through which "credits" can be bought for mitigation such as new wetlands and reed beds.

While officers have worked hard to make that happen - and Norfolk is ahead of the curve compared to many other councils - it has taken time.

In the meantime, there are concerns that developers are looking to build homes in areas not covered by the nutrient neutrality limbo, such as in Loddon.

Because councils have to prove they have a five-year land supply - and South Norfolk Council is currently in a position where it cannot - it does make it harder for councils to turn down schemes.

That is unfortunate because, while people are crying out for homes and the building industry would welcome the opportunity to get constructing again, it is important that homes are built in the right place.

Hopefully the credit scheme will be successful, the government will pump more money into solving this issue, and that will give developers the confidence not to have to consider focussing applications in too limited a part of Norfolk.