Land grab powers could be used for Long Stratton bypass
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Council bosses could wield legal powers to force owners to sell up land they say is crucial to getting the long-awaited Long Stratton bypass built.
A development-funded relief road has been touted as the only realistic way of addressing the long-running congestion problems on the A140 between Diss and Norwich.
In March, South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller said the road was “closer than it has ever been”.
With the village earmarked for 1,800 homes under a blueprint for growth known as the joint core strategy, Mr Fuller said those homes could provide the funding, through the community infrastructure levy, to pay for the bypass.
He also said the Greater Norwich City Deal scheme, which offers loans to kick-start development, could also have a key role to play in getting those homes built.
But today, South Norfolk Council’s controlling Conservative cabinet will be asked by officers to consider using another weapon to try to get the bypass off the ground - using its powers of compulsory purchase to buy land.
The council has been drawing up an area action plan to look at how and where the 1,800 homes would be allocated in and around Long Stratton and negotiations with landowners and developers are “well advanced”.
However, officers say it is worth exploring the possibility of the council using compulsory purchase orders to smooth the process.
Compulsory purchase orders allow councils to force land owners to sell up if their property obstructs a regeneration project or it is for the “greater public good”.
The council would have to demonstrate that it would be in the public interest for the order to be granted, while the land owners would be paid the market value of the land, along with possible extra payments.
In the report which councillors will discuss today, planning policy manager Adam Nicholls said: “Officers are of the initial view that there would appear to be a good case that a compulsory purchase order application to secure land to deliver the strategic aims of the area action plan (including the bypass, 1,800 homes, employment land and other elements) would be granted by the secretary of state.
“As land is within a number of separate ownerships, a compulsory purchase order would also minimise the risk of any ransom situations arising between the different landowners.”
If the cabinet agrees to the principle of using compulsory purchase orders, then officers would investigate further, including what it would cost.
Officers would then return next month with a recommendation as to whether the authority should go down the compulsory purchase order route.
Last year, the council’s cabinet outlined options on where the homes should be – including whether there should be 1,200 homes to the east of the village, and 600 homes to the north west or whether the full 1,800 homes should be built on the eastern site within the bypass.
Two other options – one for about 1,000 new homes to the east, 600 to the north-west and 200 to the south-west and another for 1,800 new homes to the east of Long Stratton and 600 to the north-west – have also been consulted on.
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said: “The A140 is a key economic artery within East Anglia and for too long residents of Long Stratton have had to endure constant traffic, air pollution, noise and accidents whilst they wait for a bypass.
“South Norfolk is committed to ensuring that the land for the bypass as well as for new homes and space for business is secured. “With the introduction of CIL, an infrastructure investment fund from the City Deal, the essential funding elements are now in place to deliver the road, which will transform the village for the better.
“Compulsory purchase should be considered a last resort but it’s important that the council has this important lever available to ensure that, if it is not possible to gain the agreement of all interested parties to make all the land required available, then no one person can hold the village to ransom.”
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