NDR opening could allow progress on 600 homes at Thorpe St Andrew

600 homes are planned on Brook Farm and Laurel Farm. Picture: Mike Page

600 homes are planned on Brook Farm and Laurel Farm. Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

Completion of the NDR early next year could mitigate the seven figure 'ransom' Network Rail are imposing on developers trying to press ahead with a 10-year-old scheme for 600 homes around Thorpe St Andrew.

At the second time of asking, the planning committee at Broadland District Council has agreed to relax conditions for the scheme at Brook Farm and Laurel Farm.

It would allow a bridge over the Bittern line - designed to join up a link road through the site - to be built after the first 270 homes are developed, rather than before development begins.

Instead, the link road would be diverted through Green Lane until an acceptable sum could be agreed with Network Rail.

Despite concern from parish councillors over flooding on Green Lane and added traffic movements, head of planning Phil Courtier told the committee that after the NDR is built, Green Lane would see a net reduction of more than 4,000 vehicles.

Andrew Cawdron, of Thorpe End Parish Council, pointed out lorries had been caught under the bridge at Green Lane, which often floods.

'The fact this road is unsuitable for public transport is such a detrimental factor,' he said. 'The figures are meaningless and Plumstead Road is already exceeding them by more than 4,000 vehicles.'

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Peter Wilkinson, MD of Landmark Planning, representing Lothbury, reassured councillors by saying it would be 'absolute lunacy' not to complete the link road.

'It has already cost in excess of £6m and the initial infrastructure has cost another £11m,' he said. 'Developments of this scale make a loss for years. This has already taken 10 years and so far they have had no return.

'Getting the agreement of Network Rail is both costly and time-consuming and can delay progress for years.'

Ian Graham, for Aylsham, moved to approve the application.

'To expect everything on day one is financial fantasy,' he said. 'It is perfectly reasonable for the developer to ask us not to insist on that development being carried forward before he has sold one house.'

A spokesman from Network Rail said: 'We have to close the line and any bridge over the line would need to be compliant and over each weekend, the train operator would have to be compensated - so that's why it is so expensive.'

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