Residents raise concerns over Swaffham’s ability to cope with expansion and call for a possible bypass
- Credit: Ian Burt
Worries over how Swaffham will cope with hundreds of new homes earmarked for the town have been raised by residents.
A target of 1,600 homes has been set for Swaffham by 2036 in the Breckland Local Plan, a document which will have a major role in shaping the future of the district.
More than half of those homes have been recently built or granted planning permission.
But residents say that unless crucial decisions are made on infrastructure the town could be under serious threat.
One of their biggest concerns is over a main road which runs through the town and connects it to the A47. The A1065/Station Street is already highly congested during peak hours and weekends and is regularly used by heavy good vehicles.
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Current traffic volume has caused nitrogen dioxide (NO2) level to rise above the national guidance levels and sparked discussions over whether to declare a section of the road an Air Quality Management Area.
Swaffham resident Richard Mackenzie said: 'We have a large build up of traffic during the day, especially having a school on the main road. As this is a through road for traffic from King's Lynn we also have a problem with large heavy goods vehicles day and night.
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'We need a study carried out urgently to determine the need for a relief road, or a possible ban on large HGVs through town.'
The hope is that a relief road would ease traffic and allow larger vehicles to go around the town rather than through it. But diverting traffic away from the town could have a significant impact on businesses.
Colin Mason, co-owner of The Arts Lounge, said: 'This is the first town you stop at off the A47, you don't want to lose that and that is the dilemma. We need a way to get HGVs and farm vehicles away from the town but it is vital we encourage tourism. If you don't have businesses the town will die.
'I'd like to see a road that supports vehicles over seven and a half tonnes but you can't have a road restricted like that. It could be many years away but a bypass will kill the town.'
The town council says no options are off the table. Richard Bishop, town clerk, said: 'The real decision making is a long way off and in terms of what issues are eventually placed before the town, there is no hidden agenda, nothing has been ruled in or out.'
Why are residents concerned?
Traffic management on the A1065 is just one of many infrastructure concerns that have been raised over the plans for residential development in Swaffham.
Few have expressed opposition to the building of new homes because they will help to attract younger people to the area and generate growth.
But there is an overall disagreement with the government's planning process which some say puts the development first and infrastructure second. Instead residents question why infrastructure needs are not being considered in line with the planning.
Colin Mason, co-owner of The Arts Lounge, said: 'The problem is the infrastructure is not there. The couple of doctors' surgeries we have are full, the dentists are full, and the roads won't support it all. All these new people will be coming in and there is nothing to support them. We need to consider more car parks, better signage, and more doctors' surgeries.'
How does Swaffham fit in with the district's development plan?
Based on the latest details from Breckland Council there is a proposed housing target in Swaffham of 1,612 houses by 2036. Of those dwellings, 900 have either been completed or have received planning permission.
This means that a further 700 homes are proposed in the local plan for construction by 2036.
There are also plans for nine hectares of employment land to be added to the town providing improved job opportunities.
The council says that the plan includes policies to secure infrastructure alongside housing and employment growth.
Swaffham has now forming a Neighbourhood Plan which means five topic groups have been created and they will each identify the current issues and options open to the town over a period of at least 12 months.
There will be public consultation events held along the way allowing the public to voice any concerns.