OPINION: Opportunity knocks for Norfolk to unite and solve key green issues

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden

Coastal erosion at Happisburgh. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Chris Dady, chair of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Norfolk) says Norfolk must act now to sort its future

We live in a county that has a number of key attributes, which play a vital role for the UK. 

One is agriculture, another is our geographical location ideal for green energy production, and finally we have beautiful countryside and tranquillity making us a destination for tourists. 

Like everywhere else we are seeing rapid change, and actions taken today will shape the Norfolk we will see in 2050 and beyond.

A good example of this is the drive to accelerate development of green energy schemes, to slow the impact of climate change, improve our air quality and give the UK future energy security (not relying so much on imported energy). 

However pursuit of these goals could easily industrialise Norfolk, with major overhead and disruptive underground cabling schemes, and huge new onshore infrastructure with relay stations and vast solar and battery farms. 

Projects making this future a potential reality are already happening, with many more on the drawing board.

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Without a collectively agreed vision for our future, with plans in place to realise it, then there is a very high chance that our county will lose the natural advantages we enjoy today. 

There is still time to strike the right balance, allowing change whilst at the same time creating a sustainable future. 

To realise a vision and long term plan all our MPs and councils must come together, regardless of party, genuinely working with and listening to local communities, organisations and young people. 

They need to get a plan adopted by whichever government is in power.

Chris Dady, chairman of the Norfolk branch of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England)

Chris Dady, chairman of the Norfolk branch of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) - Credit: Archant

Issues dealt with include the potential for industrialisation caused by renewable energy projects. 

We need to ensure we can realise the schemes required, but also to place as much cabling and infrastructure as possible offshore. 

Solar farms on fields should be a thing of the past - in the UK there is enough south facing roof space for photovoltaic (solar energy producing) panels to produce almost half of the UK’s energy needs - we have to tap into this.

 Battery complexes - vital for the storage of green energy - should be in existing industrial locations on brownfield sites.

We have recognised the importance of energy security, but by the same token food and water security is equally important. 

We must stop losing precious farmland, and invest in the development of agriculture in a sustainable and nature friendly way, using regenerative techniques. 

Prioritising protection of our countryside, natural spaces and habitats is vital. 

This will keep our county as unspoilt as possible, protect our vital tourism businesses and create a healthier environment for us and our visitors. As part of the vision, we can plan for new jobs in all these sectors, once again benefiting our communities.

There are other key issues to solve that will need be built into the plan. 

These include our future water supply, the protection of water courses, managing flood risk and coastal erosion, increasing green spaces in urban areas, revitalisation of town centres to reflect the new order of retail of office space, the quality of new developments and our existing housing stock, levelling up within our communities (including government built social housing), local energy networks, as well as a real step forward in a sustainable transport system, not just a reliance on an electric car future.

The opportunity is there for the taking. 

Our political leaders need to get together now to create a collective vision and long term action led plan stretching to 2050 and beyond. 

They need to listen to, and work with, all our communities, younger people, and our neighbours on a politically neutral basis. If they cannot, or will not, do this then their legacy will be one of failure for Norfolk.