Crucial hearings to help determine where thousands of homes could be built in Norwich and the surrounding areas over the next two decades will start within days.

A series of meetings will examine blueprints for where almost 50,000 homes could be built in Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland between now and 2038, with dozens of councillors, businesses and interested parties set to speak.

The housing schemes will be set out in the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP), a document outlining areas the councils would like to allocate for homes.

Local plans are supposed to ensure homes are supported by the necessary infrastructure and make it more likely that planning applications in those places would be approved.

The 50,000 homes are needed as part of a government commitment to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s and Norfolk is expected to build its share.

But, before the document can be used to help weigh up whether applications should get permission, it needs to be assessed by government planning inspectors.

The upcoming hearings, which start next week, form part of that assessment process.

Inspectors Mike Worden and Thomas Hatfield have been appointed by the government's Planning Inspectorate to study the Greater Norwich plan.

Hearings will be held virtually on February 1-3 and from February 8-10, starting at 9.30am every day. The meeting will be streamed on the Norfolk County Council YouTube channel.

A second round of hearings will start on March 1.

Those expected to speak on February 1 include the countryside charity the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Drayton Farms and Cringleford and Hingham councils.

The Norfolk branch of CPRE has previously raised concerns about the plans, including that the number of homes are too high, that they are in "unsustainable" rural locations, and that the Norwich Western Link inclusion was "incompatible" with a desire to prevent climate change.

When the plan was initially submitted for examination in the summer, Shaun Vincent, chair of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership, said: "We need to make sure that future growth brings benefits for all, while protecting our environment and providing for a sustainable future."

Eastern Daily Press: Shaun Vincent,new leader of the Broadland Conservative Group. Picture: Conservative PartyShaun Vincent,new leader of the Broadland Conservative Group. Picture: Conservative Party (Image: Submitted)

Some 5,000 of the homes have already been built and the locations of around 74pc have been identified in previous plans, but the document needs to allocate locations for the rest of the housing.

The plan includes 12,000 new homes in Norwich and hundreds more in places such as Hellesdon, Drayton, Taverham and Thorpe St Andrew.

With a focus on employment at places such as Norwich Research Park, there would also be more than a thousand new homes in Hethersett and Cringleford, with 2,615 in Wymondham.

There would also be 13,505 to the northeast of Norwich.