Village heritage hopes snubbed

STEVE DOWNES It is a typical Norfolk village - with its attractive listed buildings, well-kept green and dominant flint church.But the classic ingredients that make up Plumstead, near Holt, are apparently not enough to make it a conservation area.

STEVE DOWNES

It is a typical Norfolk village - with its attractive listed buildings, well-kept green and dominant flint church.

But the classic ingredients that make up Plumstead, near Holt, are not enough to make it a conservation area.

Villagers have been pressing for five years to get the special designation - which is already held by most of their "less attractive" neighbours.

They want to join the other 82 conservation areas in north Norfolk, and believe it would help stave off development that could "spoil" the village.

But North Norfolk District Council looks set to reject the request.

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In a report to Thursday's joint development control committee, officer Cathy Batchelar

said that Plumstead was "an attractive old rural settlement set in a picturesque landscape".

But she said: "The inconsistency in the quality of the buildings and the weak relationship between them suggests that in heritage and conservation terms there is insufficient justification to designate Plumstead as a conservation area."

The snub has angered villagers, who said they first made the request in March 2001, and it was only now being dealt with.

Parish council chairman David Ramsbotham said: "I'm very upset about this.

"There are villages around here that are conservation areas and that are not anywhere near as attractive as our village.

"Baconsthorpe, Edgefield and Matlaske are all conservation areas, but they've got nothing more than us.

"I'm really disappointed and very surprised at this recommendation. It should get the designation to protect the many attractive buildings and maintain the character of a real north Norfolk village.

We are proud of Plumstead and want it to be preserved as it is."

Ms Batchelar said the English Heritage criteria for the assessment of conservation areas was "far more rigorous" than in the 1970s, when most of north Norfolk's areas were designated.

English Heritage's advice reads: "It is vital that only areas which are demonstrably of special architectural or historic interest in the local and regional context should be designated."

Ms Batchelar said that management rules meant new designation could be costly, but current planning policies and those being developed were sufficient to protect Plumstead's character.