CPRE Norfolk forms new alliance to battle GNDP housing targets

A new alliance has been forged to give a disparate array of campaign groups a united focus in battling the huge house-building ambitions around Norwich.

The Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) offered local groups the chance to join forces in opposing the Greater Norwich Development Partnership's (GNDP's) target of 37,000 new homes by 2026.

About 25 people arrived for the inaugural meeting at Hethersett Methodist Church last night (Tuesday), representing 12 separate community groups which have all individually been fighting different elements of the GNDP's Joint Core Strategy (JCS).

The house-building targets were described as 'insensitive', 'unrealistic' and 'bonkers' at various points of the meeting, during which an agreement was reached to form a 'loose alliance' based on the common goal of reducing the overall figure.

CPRE Norfolk's planning and campaigns manager Caroline Davison, who chaired the meeting, said a draft agreement would be circulated for discussion at the next meeting, due to be held within a month. A name for the alliance has not yet been chosen.

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David Hook, planning group member for CPRE Norfolk, said: 'If the GNDP proceeds with its current housing targets, the rural areas surrounding Norwich will be transformed into a clone of the Home Counties. Tranquillity will be lost, light pollution will increase, traffic levels will escalate and the rural nature of this part of Norfolk will be severely diminished. In short, 37,000 additional houses by 2026 will destroy many of those things which local people treasure.

'We are all here to try and find a common position which benefits all of us, and the only common position that can do that is a reduction in all the housing numbers.'

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The groups who have joined the new alliance include Hethersett Our Way, Realistic Reepham, Stop Norwich Urbanisation (Snub), Norfolk and Norwich Transport Action Group (NNTAG). Norfolk Anglers' Conservation Association, Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, Wymondham Asks Why and the Hethersett Society.

Stephen Heard is chairman of Snub, which raised a successful legal challenge against the JCS. He told the meeting: 'We have always said there is a need for new houses but not for 37,000. There is a need for a sensible strategy to disperse them into communities where they are needed and wanted, and we need a consensus among all these groups to see where they should be distributed.

'That is the next stage of our campaign. We believe now that by joining the CPRE and all of you, we can get that aggregate demand and pressure to get them to change the numbers.'

Also attending the meeting were parish councillors from Hethersett and Colney. Other recurring themes included the need for more transparency within planning authorities, and more open consultation with the public.

Michael Innes, of the Norfolk Association of Architects, also supported the calls for a 'significantly reduced' housing target, and said the campaign should be a precursor to a wider debate on getting the right kind of development in the right places.

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