REVEALED: The 215 Norfolk villages that could be left ‘fossilised’

PUBLISHED: 07:36 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:36 20 November 2018

Wolferton is one of the villages listed in the report as at risk. Picture: Ian Burt

Wolferton is one of the villages listed in the report as at risk. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Hundreds of villages in the region are at risk of becoming “fossilised” and trapped in a cycle of decline due to failures in planning policy, a report has found.

Building site. Picture: ANTONY KELLYBuilding site. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was highlighted as the seventh worst area in the country, with 84 villages judged as “unsustainable” by planners, with North Norfolk with 62, and South Norfolk with 37, also featuring.

The report, from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), warns Norfolk villages such as Haddiscoe, Castle Rising, and Elveden could be left “trapped in analogue” while bigger towns and cities are preferred for housing developments.

Planning policy, the report found, favours historically important services such as a post office, primary school, and a village hall.

This means smaller villages without these services are overlooked by developers in favour of bigger settlements.

In Norfolk, land surrounding established towns such as Thetford, which is due to gain 5,000 homes with the Kingsfleet development in the north of the town, is prioritised over more rural land near villages such as Elveden.

House building in smaller villages is often met with fierce opposition from local residents.

Plans for a 10,000 new town in rural mid-Norfolk were met with criticism earlier this year before being rejected by Breckland councillors.

The report also highlighted deficiencies in planning policy with only 18pc of councils rating broadband access as important in measuring sustainability.

Castle Rising Village. Photo: Emily PrinceCastle Rising Village. Photo: Emily Prince

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “Sustainable development is not just for towns and cities. Finding and promoting sustainable solutions for rural communities is vital to the long-term vitality of the countryside.

“Updating rural planning policy to include connectivity in sustainability assessments means English villages will not be trapped in analogue when the rest of the world is in the digital age and can access much of the housing they desperately need.”

Charles Birch, a Land Agency partner at property consultants Brown and Co, said planning policy can make it difficult to develop smaller villages.

He said: “Have you got foul drainage, you may not have enough power or rural broadband. Have you actually got the services you need.

The Black House pub in Castle Rising. Photo: Emily PrinceThe Black House pub in Castle Rising. Photo: Emily Prince

“On the other hand, is the site more valuable for people to want to live there. It would be easier to find house builders who design really carefully in a high value area than a low value area.

He added: You do have this problem with what planning authorities term sustainable villages. What is a reasonable amount for a village to take before it is frightening?”

In addition to challenges created by policy, house building in smaller villages is often met with fierce opposition from local residents, often called ‘nimbyism’, or ‘not in my back yard-ism’.

Plans for a 10,000 new town in rural mid-Norfolk were met with criticism earlier this year before being rejected by Breckland councillors.

Dave Soanes. Picture: Marc BettsDave Soanes. Picture: Marc Betts

Tony Abel, chairman of Abel Homes based in Watton, has been building homes since 1995 and says villages that are at risk should have homes built, but added any growth should be proportional.

He said: “Contrary to common belief home builders only build where they are given the opportunity to by the district councils. We don’t lead on where new homes are started.

“I favour what I call organic growth because I believe all villages and towns should have some growth in order to sustain a healthy environment in that location.

“However, if you don’t have an adequate nucleus of people within a community then local facilities start to suffer and then we see pubs closing and shops having to sell up or give up.”

Elveden, Suffolk. Picture: Conor MatchettElveden, Suffolk. Picture: Conor Matchett

The report criticises local authorities not including ‘social capital’ - the social benefits of living in a village or a rural area over an urban one - in planning policy.

It calls for improved planning criteria “fit for the modern age” and for mandatory housing needs assessments to better understand the needs for local people.

Mr Abel added anger from residents near to large developments is understood by developers, but does not affect house building as it does not form a major part of the planning process.

He said: “You have to look at each one under its own merit. There are certain villages that are well placed strategically that will benefit the wider community from having additional homes and you can understand why those residents who have been used to enjoying a hamlet would like it retain that lifestyle that they have become accustomed to.

Olga Lowery, a resident in Elveden. Picture: Conor MatchettOlga Lowery, a resident in Elveden. Picture: Conor Matchett

“Nimbyism is completely understandable. however it doesn’t count at all in the planning process. What I think about nimbyism is to a large part irrelevant to the planning process.”

A spokesman for South Norfolk, which has 37 villages labelled as at risk of ‘fossilisation’ said: “South Norfolk has a strong track record in enabling a wide variety of suitable development sites in both our towns and villages.

“However the Council also recognises the need for new housing to support existing facilities, such as local schools, rural businesses and community facilities.”

King’s Lynn and West Norfolk District Council were also contacted for comment.

Tony Abel, chairman of the Abel Group.Tony Abel, chairman of the Abel Group.

Elveden, North Suffolk

Home of the resting place of the last Maharaja of India, Duleep Singh, Elveden, just across the county border in Suffolk from Thetford, is a tiny village steeped in history.

With no more than ten buildings on the main road, it is small and entirely surrounded by the Elveden estate, with almost all the buildings owned by Edward Guiness, Lord Iveagh.

One resident, Olga Lowery, said new homes would change the character of the village in a way residents would not welcome.

Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer is the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Breitmeyer is the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

She said: “We are happy the way it is. We like this small village. There is a reason we don’t live in Bury.

“There are a lot of people who have lived in this village for years and I am sure a lot of them here like that quiet we have.

“Everyone knows each other here, while in bigger towns you don’t even know your neighbour and it is just one of those things that gets lost with development.”

Castle Rising, West Norfolk

Castle Rising, King’s Lynn is a quintessential English village steeped in history, medieval architecture and a 12th century Norman castle that dominates its centre.

With its tea rooms, pub and a plethora of local businesses the villagers are proud of their quiet corner of west Norfolk.

An employee from Castle Rising Tea Rooms, who wishes to remain anonymous said: “It’s a beautiful area, building houses would ruin that.

“In the summer we get a lot of tourists from as far as Japan, coach loads of people and it you started adding more houses it would take away from the beauty, that’s what I think, personally.”

An anonymous resident of the village said: “I doubt Lord Howard would let it happen, he owns most of the village is not all of it. But it would ruin the historical beauty of the village, and if a lot of young people moved in, it would then become crazy.”

Haddiscoe, East Norfolk

Dave Soanes, 77, has lived in Haddiscoe for more than 40 years. In that time there has been no development in the village.

The retired accountant said: “Where would they put any homes? We have the marshes, which can’t be built on and when it rains there is flooding.

“It is ludicrous some of the planning ideas they have had. There is very little in the village for young people. Our pub has been closed for 18 months and there is a little bar in the caravan park which is the social hub of the village.”

There are no shops or post office in the village.

Mr Soanes added: “Young people are happy to drive into town to do their shopping but it is the older people who can’t drive who are suffering. A lot of developments are aimed at young people but then do not have affordable housing.

“A developer must consider what is available and what facilities are there.”

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