Campaigners say ‘no’ to building new Norwich community of 3,520 houses on farmland

Campaigners hope to attract support in and around Norwich in their fight to stop proposals for 3,520 houses.

London-based Beyond Green has plans to create a new community on 207.4 hectares of farmland, which is currently owned by five different landowners, over a 15 to 20-year period near Sprowston and Old Catton.

But more than 100 people gathered in Church Lane, Sprowston, after the ever-growing Say No to Sprowston Redevelopment campaign urged people to show their support for protecting the countryside on their doorstep.

The group says it has collected more than 500 signatures for a petition against the idea, with concerns raised about the strain they believe it could place on existing roads and services.

They also took a walk down Church Lane with dogs in tow, to raise awareness of what they say could be lost if the housing is built.

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Debs Hutchings, who helped organise the campaign, said a headcount suggested they were 141 people who turned up at Saturday's rally.

Mrs Hutchings told those gathered: '?After speaking to lots of people about this, I have not come across one person/household that knew this was happening.

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'No literature or publicity direct to the local residents, even now there are still lots of people unaware.

'The population of Sprowston is currently just over 14,000 spread over an area reaching from the ring road out to Salhouse Road and across to Spixworth Road.

'Beyond Green's proposals are to extend this population by a further 10,000 across a significantly smaller area.'

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Hutchings added: 'We understand there has to be some growth. But we would expect them to use brownfield sites first. If there's a housing need, we understand that, but not at this level.'

Beyond Green has submitted hundreds of pages of documents outlining their masterplan for North Sprowston and Old Catton to Broadland District Council.

They include changes to roads, ideas on how 13 buses an hour could operate from the community, car clubs, cycleways, five new primary/nursery schools, plus a host of community facilities.

It is stated the properties will house around 7,500 people.

Opening up land at Beeston Hall for a new country park is also part of the 82.5 hectares earmarked for green space.

Beyond Green adds it has spent three years consulting with people, groups and organisations about its proposal.

But accountant Roy Hughes, of Sprowston, said: 'We already know there's a serious issue for food security in the UK and Europe as a whole and they are happy to allow good arable land to be used for houses.'

Peter Gallant, 66, of North Walsham Road, Sprowston, said: 'We don't think a lot of the plans. I walk down Church Lane twice a day with my dogs and that will be taken away. I don't want to walk through the middle of a housing estate.'

Another Sprowston resident added: 'The secondary school is already crowded and I can't get into the doctor's now. We have heard nothing about the plans.'

Jonathan Smales, executive chairman of Beyond Green, said consultations had been held with the public, community officials, non-governmental organisations such as the Wildlife Trust, and statutory bodies, including the Environment Agency.

Mr Smales said some of the events had been spread over five days, with people able to have their say throughout.

He added they had 'no obligation to do this' but he was unsure what more could have been done.

Mr Smales said: 'It may not be enough but I doubt there's a developer anywhere in Britain that's done any more for public involvement than this.

'I suppose these things have been around for so long and then you see a real project come along and it galvanises attention. But it doesn't change for me we urgently need new homes, do it properly this time, there's economic opportunities for people, particularly young people, and the scheme we are proposing has been consulted on in-depth and is a really good plan - although I would say that.'

The plans are part of an overall masterplan, which could see 37,000 houses built in Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland by 2026.

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