10,000 homes waiting to be built around Norwich

Thousands of planned homes in and around Norwich remain unbuilt despite permission for them being granted, it was revealed today.

Figures obtained by the Evening News show that permission has been granted for 9,870 properties in Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk, yet the developments are either not yet finished or have not been started.

The total has been revealed at a time when councils in the three areas – under the umbrella of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) – have been tasked with building 37,000 homes in the next 15 years.

This has caused major controversy as proposals have been revealed for new home applications to meet the targets.

Yet, the figures show that were the homes that have already been through the planning process pursued, a third of this target would be met.

Today, campaigners claimed that new applications, many of which cause concern in the area in which they are proposed, should not be considered when so many approved sites remain undeveloped.

The total, blamed on the economic downturn by developers, can also be revealed at a time when housing, particularly affordable properties, is desperately needed with people struggling to get a foot on the housing ladder.

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Leader of South Norfolk Council and former GNDP chairman, John Fuller, called on developers to build out the homes they had permission for before antagonising communities with fresh applications.

He said: 'I would say the figures speak for themselves - they are huge figures.

'As far as the Norwich area is concerned there is no reason why 9,870 homes couldn't start being built now.'

In Norfolk there are 18,067 homes which councils have given the go-ahead for, but are either not finished or have not been started.

The Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) has drawn up a blueprint, known as the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) which outlines development around Norwich for the next 15 years.

It includes building 4,000 homes in Hethersett and focuses on an area known as the north-eastern growth triangle.

GNDP manager, Sandra Eastaugh, said: 'With the best will in the world the authorities cannot guarantee that all the sites will be delivered.

'Some large sites naturally take the developers longer to deliver than initially anticipated and this has to be accounted for in the calculations.'

Stephen Heard from campaign group, Stop Norwich Urbanisation, said: 'If they are looking at housing construction to kick start the economy then get on with it.

'Build what you have got before new applications.

'The problem is it is not economically viable for them (the developers) to build houses at the moment.'

He called on the Government to step in to help unplug the backlog by helping builders and buyers.

Tony Abel, whose firm Abel Homes does not have a large number of homes with planning permission waiting to be built, said many of the planning applications where likely to have been put in before land values fell in the 2008 recession.

Under option agreements developers get planning permission on a site, but the landowner only agrees to release it at a set price.

Now, land values have now fallen below that price meaning the land with planning permission can not be built on.

Mr Abel said many landowners were holding onto the sites and waiting for values to rise again.

'The market has fallen back some considerable way,' he said. 'The banks have had their fingers burnt in the property sector. Their conditions of lending are making many sites unbuyable.

'We have been buying and building but we are not typical. It is very difficult.'

David Hook from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said homes should not be granted permission when they might not be built for years. 'We would all like existing allocations to be used first,' he said.

And James Utting, spokesman for the Hethersett Our Way (HOW) group said it was 'absolutely crazy' to grant further development when so many homes were waiting to be built.

But Andrew Proctor, leader of Broadland Council and chair of the GNDP, said: 'We are in the hands of the developers. You can not stop people putting in applications. You can understand people don't want to see things developed but there is a proven need for more housing.'

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