Fears that children may need bussing to school if Hopkins Homes given permission for homes on North Walsham’s HL Foods site

Former HL Foods factory site in North Walsham from the air. Photo: BIDWELLS

Former HL Foods factory site in North Walsham from the air. Photo: BIDWELLS - Credit: Archant

Young children moving into planned new homes on North Walsham's former HL Foods site could be bussed to out-of-town schools because the developers will not contribute to education costs, it has been claimed.

Norfolk County Council had asked Hopkins Homes for more than £500,000 to help pay for the primary school places which would be needed if the firm's application for 176 homes on the major Norwich Road site is successful.

But Hopkins Homes will not stump up any cash, provide any affordable housing on the site or meet renewable energy expectations, claiming that to do so would make the development unviable.

Vivienne Uprichard, a member of both North Walsham Town Council and North Norfolk District Council told town councillors on Tuesday that Hopkins Homes' stance 'beggared belief.'

NNDC, whose development committee is due to consider the application on November 21, had never before known a developer refuse to make any contribution towards education costs, according to Mrs Uprichard.

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The development would have 'severe implications' for primary provision and, without cash, would either mean much bigger class sizes locally, the introduction of mobile classrooms, or parents having to pay to send their children by bus to schools elsewhere.

Hopkins Homes is seeking permission for the homes, a 50-space railway station car park, public open space and service roads, as well as employment uses on a 8.7ha (21.5 acres) site.

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Canning factory HL Foods closed in 2002 and the site, at the town's main gateway, has been derelict ever since.

'The district council is in the same difficult position as the town council,' said Mrs Uprichard.

'If we refuse the plan, people will complain because the area will be left looking like a bomb site. If we approve it, people will complain because there is no money for the schools or the town.'

Hopkins Homes' only intended contribution to the town was the provision of the car park, councillors heard.

Mrs Uprichard said she was also concerned that Hopkins Homes was not intending to build employment units on the site until it had a customer for them.

'We could end up with loads more houses, but no employment opportunities on that site,' she added.

She was also worried that the open space, which would be used by children to play, was too close to the railway line.

Town councillor David Spencer noted that house prices were rising nationally.

And Eric Seward, town, district and county councillor, said a condition could be attached to planning permission stating that if homes on the site sold for more than Hopkins Homes had estimated in its viability report, a proportion of the extra money must be ring-fenced to provide affordable housing in the town.

Mr Seward added: 'But they may find the houses are difficult to sell if families know their children will go to schools elsewhere.'

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