Call for Norwich green belt is revived in wake of coronavirus lockdown

CPRE Norfolk wants 'green wedges' to help protect the character of Norwich. Picture: Mike Page

CPRE Norfolk wants 'green wedges' to help protect the character of Norwich. Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

Calls for a green belt around Norwich have been revived, with campaigners saying coronavirus lockdown has made people more aware of the benefits of retaining countryside.

The Norfolk branch of countryside charity The Campaign to Protect Rural England, has written to MPs and councillors urging them to do more to protect green spaces.

And that includes a revival of the charity’s call for the creation of ‘green wedges’ radiating out from Norwich, where the countryside would be protected from development.

Government Green Belt policy was established in 1955, primarily to stop urban sprawl. It does not forbid development, but aims to preserve the character of historic towns and assist urban regeneration.

But, unlike many cities, such as Cambridge, Norwich does not have a green belt and the CPRE says such a need is particularly pertinent at a time when the government wants to get more homes built to stimulate the economy.

The CPRE wants to see ‘green wedges’, following existing green corridors, such as river valleys, railway lines and major footpaths and cycleways.

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They say that would still allow development, but would also protect the city’s character.

The question of whether people would support the establishment of a green belt around Norwich was posed as part of the consultation over the Greater Norwich Local Plan - a blueprint for where homes and jobs would be created - but council bosses said they were not convinced a green belt for Norwich was justifiable.

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However, CPRE Norfolk says coronavirus lockdown gave people a renewed appreciation of the benefits green space can have on mental and physical wellbeing and the idea should be revisited.

Michael Rayner, from CPRE Norfolk said: “As we come out of lockdown it is vital that this is not forgotten, but instead is used to underpin local strategies at borough, district, city and parish level, as well as being used to inform policy-making in new and emerging local authority plans.

“It will be tempting to focus on growth and development to reboot the economy, but we urge authorities to see this period as a genuine opportunity for improving Norfolk’s health and wellbeing through focussing on green spaces, nature and wildlife.”

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