Residents help shape Harleston town plan

Fears have been raised that Harleston could become a 'dormitory' town after residents expressed their concerns about a lack of new employment opportunities.

Members of the Have Your Say community group have finished their analysis of a town plan questionnaire, which was completed by 550 people.

Early results from the survey, which asked 57 questions on Harleston's future showed that residents wanted to see more jobs before any new housing is built.

The questionnaire, which will help form a more detailed town plan in January, has been used to comment on plans for thousands of new homes in the Greater Norwich area as part of the Joint Core Strategy, which is currently being examined by a planning inspector.

Almost 40pc of respondents said that local job opportunities were not good enough and 63pc said that proposals for 300 new homes over the next 15 years were 'unacceptable'.

Harleston Town Council has called on authorities to take into account car parking capacity and flooding problems before considering new housing applications.

Eric Bird, acting chairman of the town council, said the preliminary report was already being put to good use.

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'The amount of new building appears to be well out of balance with the number and range of available jobs, if we are to create a sustainable community and lessen car use.

'It is invaluable to know how the community feels and residents' views have been a great help to the council in its work,' he said.

The town council is also using the responses to help guide South Norfolk Council on the best places where any future developments might take place, with a focus on the need to spread the range of jobs.

The questionnaire results also revealed that 90pc of people were in favour of Harleston's free parking system.

Ian Carstairs, chairman of the Have Your Say group, said people were very concerned about the impact of growth on doctors, dentists, and school.

'It is very reassuring that people understand the real issues. We need to strengthen the range and type of jobs for local people before looking at any new housing at all.'

'Without them [new jobs] the town could increasingly descend into being a dormitory for 'drive to work' in remote locations,' he said.