Family's 'forever home' cannot be built due to development halt

Tristam Abbs, Poppy Abbs, and the land they want to build on in Longham

Tristram and Poppy Abbs had been hoping to build a home for themselves in Longham - but 'nutrient neutrality' rules have put their plans on hold - Credit: Tristram Abbs

A family’s hopes of building their “forever home” in the Norfolk countryside are on hold thanks to new rules making planning permission temporarily impossible across much of the county. 

Tristram Abbs, his wife Poppy and their two children are just one family among the thousands affected by new requirements, introduced under instruction from government advisor Natural England. 

The measures are intended to help the Wensum river and Norfolk Broads become ‘nutrient neutral’, amid concerns over wastewater from new homes contributing to the problem of nutrients, like phosphates, entering the waterways. 

Mr Abbs, who had been hoping for permission to build a home for his family to move into in Longham, near Dereham, said the rules' suddenness had left people in limbo.

Tristram Abbs and Poppy Abbs

Tristram Abbs and his wife Poppy have had their hopes of building and moving into a new home put on hold by the new rules - Credit: Tristram Abbs

“I know Natural England has no vested interest in housebuilding - they’re an environmental quango, and they do that job well,” he said.

“But unfortunately it was very short sighted of them, especially when this issue with the rivers has been the case for a long time and has required dealing with for a long time.”

He pointed out that similar rules had already been introduced some years ago around the Solent, in Hampshire, and that he “would have thought by now they’d have some kind of concept of how much of an impact it had on the construction industry”. 

Mr Abbs, a carpenter who also converts camper vans, added: “That’s what I find so upsetting, because we as developers and self-builders are completely powerless to do anything.”

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The three-bedroom home he hopes to build is on agricultural land previously used by his stepfather - and is just on the edge of the Wensum’s catchment area, meaning it is covered by the new rules. 

The land in Longham, on which Tristram Abbs hopes to build a home for his family. 

The land in Longham, on which Mr Abbs hopes to build a home for his family - Credit: Tristram Abbs

Mr Abbs said he intended the home to be “as ecologically conscious as possible”, and for it to even generate its own electricity. 

He added that he had calculated the development to be nutrient neutral, but that no ecologist was currently willing to produce a document for him evidencing this, in the absence of guidance from Breckland Council.

Like every other local authority affected, Breckland is still working to create a system which would allow them to issue planning permissions while meeting the new requirements.

Natural England chairman Tony Juniper

Natural England chairman Tony Juniper said WildEast's 'wild edges' idea is among those being considered within national policy discussions - Credit: Natural England

Natural England says it has provided councils with the necessary guidance. Its chairman, Tony Juniper, said this week the rules were not about stopping development, but addressing a “very serious and very real pollution challenge”.