A tree preservation order has thrown a spanner in the works of plans to build 350 new homes on the outskirts of North Walsham.

Members of North Norfolk District Council's development committee have voted to uphold the order for a site next to North Walsham Garden Centre on Nursery Drive.

The woodland is part of the land earmarked for the homes between Norwich Road and the A149. The council put in place a TPO for the area six months in the hope mitigation measures would be drawn up.

North Walsham resident Avril Smith hailed the decision as a victory for the more than 700 people who had signed a petition against the removal of the woodland, which they say is a haven for wildlife.

Ms Smith said: "We are hoping this could be a turning point on this development site.

"Any potential mitigation is just paying lip-service to the existing policies and fragile wildlife could perish. The site has endangered mammals including bats."

Among those at the committee meeting speaking in favour of keeping the TPO was North Walsham West ward councillor Nigel Lloyd, who said: "This is an important wildlife corridor. The area connects with other hedgerows and trees in the area.

"It has become an island of biodiversity which in my view deserves protection."

Mr Lloyd said new trees or shrubs planted elsewhere on the site would take "many years" to establish and even longer to be repopulated by wildlife, if ever.

The site, which wraps around the garden centre and includes fields to its north and south, was earmarked for development in North Norfolk District Council's local plan in May 2019.

Hopkins' vision includes green space and allotments, as well as elderly care accommodation.

A spokesman for Hopkins Homes said it would continue to work with the "local stakeholders" on the plans for the site, which has been identified by the council as being appropriate for residential development in adopted and emerging local plans.

The spokesman said: “The proposed development gives particular consideration to the existing biodiversity on site, alongside a number of further benefits based on local needs including the affordable housing, elderly care accommodation, significant areas of new public open space and new landscaping on a site that is currently private and inaccessible.

“We will reflect on the planning committee’s decision before considering our next steps.”