Rackheath could become a ‘small town’ as proposals for up to 4,000 new homes move a step closer

Village sign at Rackheath. Photo: Bill Smith;

Village sign at Rackheath. Photo: Bill Smith; - Credit: Archant � 2008

A village is facing the prospect of becoming a small town as plans for thousands of new homes move a step closer.

The development, which is being co-ordinated by Barratt Homes, Building Partnerships and Broadland District Council, could see up to 4,000 houses built on a 293 hectare site in the north of Rackheath.

Up to three new schools, shops, medical facilities and recreational space are included in a masterplan for the site.

The scheme could also see a memorial park built on a section of runway at the site of a former United States Army Air Force base, near Muck Lane.

Later today, people will have the chance to view the latest plans as they go on display from 3pm to 8pm at Holy Trinity Church in the village.

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Should the development go ahead, it could see Rackheath's population of around 1,500 people increase by more than 400pc.

The site, which spreads from Wroxham Road in the west to Salhouse in the east, has been identified for housing by the local authority.

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And while local councillors accept that some form of development will have to go ahead, they hope the village's neighbourhood plan will help shape it.

Fran Whymark, Wroxham ward councillor for Broadland, said the scheme would turn Rackheath into a small town once complete.

He said: 'The reality is that this is going to be 15 to 20 years away [to finish], but we need to make sure the community gets the facilities it needs before then.

'It is going to happen sooner or later. I live in the village, and would rather it did not happen, but if it has to, then we want it to be done as well as it can be.'

The latest plans are for at least 3,000 homes, but the developer said additional land had been 'safeguarded' for a further 1,000 properties if required.

They will be a mix of detached, semi-detached and terraced homes, as well as low-rise flats and apartments.

Other proposed features of the development include:

• Two sites for primary schools, both within an 800m distance of the majority of the new homes.

• A secondary school site, should it be required.

• A district centre comprised of retail, community and leisure facilities.

• For people living in the south of the development, a smaller local centre will be created.

• A new doctor's surgery.

• The potential to use residential land for elderly accommodation.

The village's existing industrial estate, off Green Lane West, is also likely to be extended on the northern side.

It will allow for potential access to Wroxham Road, and avoid the need for commercial traffic to pass through the residential areas.

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the development on Muck Lane, there are plans to extend the existing commercial operation into the north.

Three main access arrangements for the overall scheme are proposed, with two from Wroxham Road and one from Green Lane West.

The site was identified for housing, employment, and open space in Broadland District Council's Growth Triangle Area Action Plan last year.

But the proposed development of the land is not a new idea.

It was originally chosen to become one of the government's Eco-towns in 2009, but this halted following the withdrawal of the programme.

The latest plans are said to be the result of months of public engagement with local people and statutory bodies across the county.

It is proposed that the development moves forward in phases, starting in the south of the site, and gradually moving north.

Barratt hopes to submit the masterplan to Broadland in March, and should it be ratified by May, a planning application could be lodged by December.

The first homes could be built by Autumn 2018.

Andrew Taylor, head of planning at Barratt Homes Eastern Counties, said: 'This is an exciting opportunity to develop a new community within this highly accessible location close to the new Norwich relief road.'

A memorial to Rackheath's wartime heritage

Rackheath's United States Army Air Force (USAAF) base played a key operational role at the height of the Second World War.

It opened on March 11, 1944, as USAAF Station 145, and was home to the 467th Bombardment Group (Heavy) known as the Rackheath Aggies.

The group was made up of four squadrons, which flew the B-24 Liberator as part of the USAAF Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign, ultimately supporting the Allied drive across France

Rackheath was said to be the country's closest airfield to Germany during the war, and featured a 2,000-yard main concrete runway, two auxiliary runways of 1,400 yards each and a 2.7-mile perimeter track.

As part of the proposed new development, the remains of the runway will be integrated into an airbase memorial.

Andrew Taylor, head of planning at Barratt Homes Eastern Counties, said: 'As part of this open space we hope to pay tribute to the heritage of the site by including the airbase memorial from the current Rackheath Industrial Estate and integrate the disused runway within the development.'

The bomber group flew 212 combat missions, 5,538 combat sorties and dropped 13,353 tons of bombs.

During that time, 29 aircraft were lost in action, and 242 personnel were killed.

The last combat mission was flown on April 25, 1945 and in August 1946 the 467th was disbanded.

A memorial stone commemorating the group was dedicated in 1990. It can be found in Liberator Close, at the end of Bidwell Road, on the Rackheath Industrial Estate.

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