Norfolk villagers go Bananas

A new enemy has revealed itself in the battle for low-cost housing for local people in rural Norfolk - Bananas. Not the tropical fruit but the latest buzz word to describe militant Nimbys or “Nimbys on speed”.

A new enemy has revealed itself in the battle for low-cost housing for local people in rural Norfolk - Bananas.

Not the tropical fruit but the latest buzz word to describe militant Nimbys or “Nimbys on speed” as they were described at a meeting of Norfolk Rural Community Council in Mattishall, near Dereham, on Saturday.

Standing for Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone it represents a backlash against development and often affordable housing - which the meeting heard was in desperate need in the county's villages.

In Hopton, near Yarmouth, villagers said they had turned Bananas because of affordable homes on the edge of an 165-house estate, which were described as a “boil”, run-down and suffering from anti-social behaviour.

But elsewhere in Ellingham, near Bungay, an estate born out of a 14-year battle for affordable houses had been welcomed for helping local people stay in their home village.

Similarly on the North Norfolk coast it was said that affordable homes were breathing life into the economy, with reports that a café in Brancaster is staffed entirely with people living in low-cost housing.

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Even if public distaste about affordable developments can be overcome the meeting heard that government policy posed an even greater hurdle.

National regulations tend to restrict affordable estates to “sustainable” communities - those with access to shops and public transport - favouring towns over the villages that so desperately need affordable homes.

Martin Aust, business growth director at Flagship Housing, said: “The problem is the villages that need this development to make them sustainable in the first place are often declined.”

He said housing associations could only afford to build affordable homes on estates where planners forced developers to include low-cost homes or on agricultural land, which can be bought for up to 200 times less than “development” land.

He said the average household wage in South Norfolk would only allow people to get a mortgage of £100,000 - £30,000 below the lowest house prices in the area - and that the same was inequity was true across the county.

“Fewer houses are being built nationally then any year since the 1920s, meaning we are in a crazy situation where you can make more money by owning a house then on stocks and shares,” he said.

Vice-chairman of Ellingham Parish Council Barbara Long said the key to the success of its affordable housing estate was that the occupants were all people from the village, not drawn from outside the area as in the Hopton estate.

Janice Howell, of Brancaster Parish Council said that while past schemes had been successful more housing was needed both for young people and less well-off pensioners.

“We are considering our third affordable housing development,” she said.

“We have a huge problem. You can not buy a garage for £200,000 and the average wage is lower than the rest of the country. 40pc of our houses are second homes, we are on the edge here.”

Jonathan Clemo, 23, said Mid Norfolk was no better, adding a house in his home village of Mattishall had just sold for £230,000 and he could never afford to stay.