Could a new garden town or village be built elsewhere in Norfolk?

Could Norwich become a garden city? Picture: Mike Page

Could Norwich become a garden city? Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

The idea of new settlements to provide new homes in Norfolk should not be dismissed, despite the frosty reception proposals for a garden town between Dereham and Fakenham received.

Richard Bacon MP. Pic: Kieron Tovell.

Richard Bacon MP. Pic: Kieron Tovell. - Credit: Keiron Tovell Photography

That is the view of South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who believes the right sort of garden villages could yet prove to be the answer for where thousands of new homes should be built.

He suggests that a number of them could be built around Norwich and that it could help to unlock funding for road improvements, such as to the A47, along with improved facilities for people in the city.

The government has embraced the concept of garden settlements, making millions of pounds available to help create them across the country.

But Lanpro, the developers behind the proposals for the mid Norfolk garden town, whose director Chris Leeming said there was a need to 'do different' rather than trying to add homes in existing towns and villages, knew it would be controversial.

A map of the garden town proposed for mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford

A map of the garden town proposed for mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree. Photo: Lanpro - Credit: Archant

And so it proved. No formal planning application has been lodged, but Breckland Council this week confirmed it will be advising its councillors not to back the bid, while no resources will be made available to support the development of proposals.

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That may well signal the end of the proposals for that site, but it will not conclude the debate over garden settlements.

The idea of Norfolk having a garden settlement was first mooted in 2014, when urban designer David Rudlin called for Norwich to be one of dozens of towns to double in size and become a garden city.

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Mr Rudlin's call for more garden cities found favour with former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who was appointed to run a new National Infrastructure Commission in 2015.

Lanpro director Chris Leeming. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Lanpro director Chris Leeming. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis, who was a local government minister at that time, said he was 'very keen' on the concept and national housing policy expert Lord Taylor, at a conference at Norwich Research Park, last year supported them.

As part of the process of putting together the Greater Norwich Local Plan – a blueprint for where new homes could be built in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk – garden villages have been mooted at Honingham Thorpe, Hethel and Wymondham.

A garden town is a development of more than 10,000 homes. Garden villages are smaller settlements of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes

And South Norfolk Conservative MP Richard Bacon, who has held conferences called 'How Should Norfolk Grow?' to explore what form development should take, said proposals for completely new settlements could have merit.

He said: 'I certainly don't think it's the case that such settlements would never be acceptable. I think it has merit, as an idea.

'What it really boils down to is making sure people are involved and that these schemes are being done with thought, including over jobs.

'Is there room in Norfolk for that sort of development? Of course. You can imagine a number of these garden villages around Norwich, adding some 30,000 people, if there's public support and good link to road and rail.

'With that sort of larger populace you could turn Norwich into a garden city and with a significantly larger populace you could get better facilities, such as a concert hall.'

And Mr Bacon said such a move could unlock government funding for better roads and rail links.

He said: 'The government needs an answer to the question of where homes are going to be built.

'If the local authority shows they are pro-growth and willing to engage on that basis, they are likely to get a more favourable response from the government when it comes to putting in infrastructure.'

The Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England had opposed the mid Norfolk proposal.

But Michael Rayner, planning campaigns consultant, said that did not mean no garden settlement would be acceptable.

He said: 'Our mission is to protect Norfolk's countryside, so that immediately means placing a new settlement in it becomes problematic.

'But that's not to say we'd be completely against any form of new settlement.

'Extensions to existing towns and villages can involve bolting inappropriate large estates without the right infrastructure, so, in some ways, a sustainable, well-designed new settlement could be a preferred solution if it was in a sensible location.'

Where could garden settlements be built?

The prospect of garden villages has already been mooted in those locations:

Honingham Thorpe: The possibility of a new 4,000 home village on nearly 900 acres at Honingham Thorpe was put forward as part of the 'call for sites' process to develop the Greater Norwich Local Plan.

Hethel: A similar sized site to the west of Hethel was also suggested as part of that process.

Wymondham: During consultation over the local plan, a 6,500 settlement at Wymondham was also put forward.

Mangreen: In 2012, the potential for a new settlement of 7,000 homes in the area around Mangreen was studied. But 'significant transport constraints' around the crossing of the Norwich to London railway line were identified and no plans have ever come forward.

Wisbech: The idea of a 10.000 to 12,000 home garden town in Wisbech was proposed in 2016.

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