A huge 950-home housing development that is set to transform a Norfolk town has been delayed for another year due to deadlock over environmental measures.

Initial work on the Fakenham Urban Extension had been due to begin over winter but has been delayed time and again by the issue of 'nutrient neutrality' measures to protect rivers from housing pollution.

Councillor Christopher Cushing, who represents Fakenham's Lancaster North ward on North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), said he was disappointed but not surprised by the outcome. 

Mr Cushing said: "Work is underway to find a solution to mitigate the ‘nutrient neutrality’ obligations.

“This will not be easy as there is no obvious solution in the Fakenham catchment area.

"It is also complicated by the need to involve several agencies that include Trinity College, which owns the site, the district council and Anglian Water.”

Angela Glynn, town mayor, said the delay was disappointing, but it did not come as a "complete surprise" to the town council. 

Eastern Daily Press: Angela Glynn, mayor of Fakenham. Angela Glynn, mayor of Fakenham. (Image: Supplied)

She said nutrient neutrality remained a "huge problem" for developers. 

She said: "Unless the advice from Natural England changes, very little development can be undertaken.

"And, you have to ask the question, do we really want to keep pouring nutrient-rich water into our rivers?

"Probably not, is, I think the answer. They are already polluted enough."

The project is supposed to begin with the construction of a roundabout on the A148 for the massive construction site off Rudham Stile Lane in Fakenham's north. 

READ MORE - Fears that halt in house building could last up to two years

Eastern Daily Press: Cllr Christopher Cushing, North Norfolk District Councillor for Fakenham Lancaster North WardCllr Christopher Cushing, North Norfolk District Councillor for Fakenham Lancaster North Ward (Image: North Norfolk District Council)

The roundabout was postponed because the estimated pricetag for that part of the project was rising, and it was decided not to seek further funding until the issue of nutrient neutrality had been sorted out.

The cost for the roundabout had already risen £1.8m in 2019, to £2.8m late last year.

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

Councils across much of Norfolk were told by government advisors Natural England last March that they could not permit planning applications for homes within the catchment areas of the River Wensum and the Broads.

The halt was because of fears extra nutrients created by homes could go into waterways and harm species.

Councils were told they could not give housing schemes the go-ahead until mitigation measures were in place.

Council bosses hope a new scheme, through a joint venture with Anglian Water, will allow housebuilders to 'offset' the impact of developments by buying 'credits' to fund mitigation measures and mean decisions can be made later this year.

But the District Council's Network members said, in areas where mitigation measures are already up and running, developers have pushed up house prices to compensate for their extra costs.

An NNDC spokesperson said: “Nutrient neutrality issues have delayed many residential development sites across Norfolk.

Eastern Daily Press: The plans for the ‘Fakenham Urban Extension’, will see 950 new homes built in the town, a new primary school and shops to the town's northThe plans for the ‘Fakenham Urban Extension’, will see 950 new homes built in the town, a new primary school and shops to the town's north (Image: NNDC.)

“The upper catchment of the River Wensum is an extremely challenging area to mitigate, however, the landowners are working closely with the statutory bodies and advisors to come forward with a mitigation strategy to deliver this development. 

"The earliest opportunity for delivery of the new roundabout is now autumn 2024.”

The Fakenham Urban Extension scheme includes land for employment development, a new primary school, the creation of a new retail centre and a new 100-bed hotel. Of the homes, 166 would be classed as 'affordable'.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work closely with the councils across Norfolk to find a way forward for dealing with nutrient neutrality across the county to unblock housing development.

“We continue to work as part of the new Norfolk Environmental Credits organisation to identify projects and initiatives to provide nutrient mitigation solutions for developers.”

Trinity College has also been contacted for comment.