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Councillors vote against plans for new 10,000 home Norfolk town

PUBLISHED: 14:33 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:21 25 October 2018

(L-R): Di Dann, Andy Cutcher, and Jennie Borgnis, from the Campaign Against the New Town (CANT). Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

(L-R): Di Dann, Andy Cutcher, and Jennie Borgnis, from the Campaign Against the New Town (CANT). Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

Archant

Controversial plans to build a new town of 10,000 homes in mid Norfolk were dealt a final blow as councillors voted not to back the proposal ahead of a government deadline.

Councillor Bill Borrett. Photo: Matthew UsherCouncillor Bill Borrett. Photo: Matthew Usher

Norwich-based developer Lanpro asked Breckland District Council (BDC) to support their proposal for a town the size of Thetford between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree.

The planners hoped to receive the council’s backing in order to submit their vision for a Norfolk garden town to the Ministry of Housing ahead of the department’s deadline of November 9.

But at a full council meeting in Dereham today (Oct 25), councillors almost unanimously voted not to support the plans at this time.

Campaigners and members of the public packed the council chamber for the session, which council leader William Nunn said “was the most people I’ve ever seen turn up for a meeting in my 24 years as a councillor”.

A map of the proposed new town's location in mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree. Photo: LanproA map of the proposed new town's location in mid Norfolk, between the villages of North Elmham, Billingford and Bintree. Photo: Lanpro

Jennie Borgnis, chair of North Elmham parish council, spoke on behalf of the Campaign Against the New Town (CANT), and the five parishes who would be most affected by the plans: Bawdeswell, Billingford, Bintree, Foxley, and North Elmham.

She told councillors: “Lanpro has blatantly failed to engage with parish councils or residents.

“Lanpro has not contacted even one local community or parish council.”

She added: “I am also the voice of over 2,100 people who have signed our petition so far.

Campaigners outside Breckland District Council after councillors voted not to support plans for a new 10,000 home mid Norfolk town. Photo: Jessica Frank-KeyesCampaigners outside Breckland District Council after councillors voted not to support plans for a new 10,000 home mid Norfolk town. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

“This is the wholesale destruction of everything village communities in the entire region stand for and their very existence is at stake.

“The proposal, sited alongside Europe’s most protected river, is thoughtless, inaccurate, lazy and speculative with absolutely no merit.”

She described the proposal as “ill-conceived” and urged councillors to reject the plans.

Gordon Bambridge, one of the two ward members for Upper Wensum, said: “I met with the potential developer in July when the proposal became public.

Managing director, Chris Leeming, of the town planning and building design consultancy firm Lanpro. Picture: Denise BradleyManaging director, Chris Leeming, of the town planning and building design consultancy firm Lanpro. Picture: Denise Bradley

“I don’t think we should discount the impact on the community in this part of central Norfolk.

“Three villages will essentially disappear, and farming land and community land will disappear.

“This is a case of houses in the wrong numbers and in the wrong place.”

Bill Borrett, Upper Wensum ward member, added: “We’ve never had something of this scale or ambition.

The site of a proposed 10,000 home new garden town in the Norfolk countryside near North Elmham, Photo: ArchantThe site of a proposed 10,000 home new garden town in the Norfolk countryside near North Elmham, Photo: Archant

“[This proposal] emerged fully formed out of the mist.”

Pablo Dimoglou, ward member for Mattishall, was the only councillor to vote against supporting the recommendation not to back Lanpro’s proposal.

He said: “I was concerned to hear our MP George Freeman knew about this proposal months ago.

“I’m told the developer has a second option on the back burner. We should consider the impact on the rest of the district.”

Di Dann from the Campaign Against the New Town (CANT). Photo: Jessica Frank-KeyesDi Dann from the Campaign Against the New Town (CANT). Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

Mr Dimglou added: “I’ve been a councillor since 2014 and heard councillors say how good a new town would be. I feel it’s being rejected with an eye to the upcoming elections.”

Harry Clarke, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “We fully support the recommendation not to support this proposal by Lanpro.

“Residents in Breckland are fed up with greedy developers submitting unsubstantiated proposals that have scant regard for local democracy, community cohesion and infrastructure requirements.

“What this issue highlights is that our planning system is broken.”

Leader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian BurtLeader of Breckland Council William Nunn. Picture: Ian Burt

Ahead of the vote, Mr Nunn told councillors that BDC was made aware of the proposal for a 10,000 home garden town in June 2018.

He said: “In August the government released a prospectus [and] the council was asked by Lanpro to support their proposal.

“Our local plan is currently at a very advanced stage and the proposal by Lanpro has not been part of that process.

“The garden town proposal would be considerably in excess of the housing requirement.”

The new town site borders the protected Wensum river valley, Photo: ArchantThe new town site borders the protected Wensum river valley, Photo: Archant

He added: “When it was suggested to Lanpro that community engagement was necessary there was still no community engagement.”

Di Dann, from CANT, said: “It’s great that so many people turned up and the district council appreciated that.

“It’s what democracy is all about.”

Bill Borrett described the outcome as a “resounding result” and said: “I’m really pleased there were so many people here today.”

Andy Cutcher from the campaign said the campaigners felt supported by the council and described the meeting as “a great example of local democracy”.

And Jennie Borgnis said: “It’s great that we’ve had only one person voted against this recommendation at the council.”

She added: “We’re not closing up and going away. We’re going to keep the petition going.

“We are going to be prepared [because], as one of the councillors said, they can’t say no to this forever.

“If Lanpro does get its act together and present a much better argued proposal we will still be here and still be fighting it.

“It’s the wrong place and it will always be the wrong place.”

What did Lanpro say?

Managing director of planning consultancy firm Lanpro, Chris Leeming, said the company would not go ahead with the scheme after not receiving the backing of the council.

Commenting on the council’s decision not to support the proposal, Mr Leeming said: “We’ve listened to the views of the council and we respect the decision they’ve made.

“Its very clear that there’s no further opportunity to progress in Norfolk at this time, and we respect that.”

Mr Leeming said the issue was one of timing, and added: “The local plan was running at a certain pace.

“The government asked, with the prospectus, for a different pace.

“The idea was that we examine the opportunity together.

“The council and the community have voted against that so we were unable [to progress] within the time we were given.”

He added: “The time frame set by the government was very tight.”

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