New plans for factory site

It has been shut for five years, slowly deteriorating into an edge of town eyesore - but a former canning factory could be knocked down and given a new lease of life as a 180-home estate.

It has been shut for five years, deteriorating slowly into an eyesore. But a former canning factory could be knocked down and given a new lease of life as a 180-home estate.

The former HL Foods factory at North Walsham closed in 2002 with the loss of nearly 100 jobs.

Its demise marked the end of more than 70 years of industrial history.

But plans being discussed this week could see new homes being built on the 12-acre brownfield site, alongside a residential care home, a convenience store, green space, new planting and play equipment.

No formal planning application has yet been submitted because, under relatively new rules, major developments have to be subject to public exhibition and discussion before formal paperwork is submitted.

That public exhibition will be held at North Walsham Community Centre tomorrow and will be open to all.

Most Read

The site, which fronts on to Norwich Road and is next to the railway line from Norwich to Sheringham, has been touted in local planning documents as land suitable for providing employment.

But the suggestion that houses should be built there instead is nothing new and may be an easier pill to swallow thanks to recent efforts to turn another brownfield site, the former Crane Fruehauf site nearby, into a business park.

At the time of the HL Foods closure, Transport and General Workers' Union regional industrial organiser Peter Medhurst said the HL Foods site was more likely to have a new lease of life as housing than another factory.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said yesterday it was important for the town council and community to have their say about the plans and welcomed the public exhibition.

"This would involve an end to the ambition of turning this land back to employment, so it is an issue which has got to be subject to discussion with the town," he added. "Local employment is important and we want the town to have an economic life of its own, not simply to be a dormitory for Norwich.

"But there is a desperate need for housing, and, now that work has started on the Crane Fruehauf site, it may be the balance has been struck between needs. It is important to bring brownfield sites back into use, and we don't want an empty and decaying site on the main entrance to the town from Norwich."

Mr Lamb said there would also be questions to be asked about the resulting increase in traffic, plus wider concerns about numbers of lorries in the west of the town.

The public exhibition is open from 3pm to 8pm. The event is being run by Bidwells on behalf of developers Hopkins Homes.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter