Calls to protect green spaces from large city development

An artist's impression of what was planned for the Beeston Park development in Old Catton/Sprowston

An artist's impression of what was planned for the Beeston Park development. Pictured inset is planning expert Jon McDermott - Credit: Beyond Green/Jon McDermott

The need to build tens of thousands of homes in Norwich to house a swelling population must not infringe on vital green space, experts have warned.

Developments are expected to keep cropping up in and around the Fine City with proposals submitted to the government to build 45,000 homes in the area by 2041. 

Bosses behind the blueprints - known as the Greater Norwich Local Plan - have pledged to "protect and enhance the built, natural and historic environments" as well as the delivery of homes. 

More than 650 homes could be built on The Deal Ground in Norwich. Pic: Archant Library.

More than 650 homes could be built on The Deal Ground in Norwich. Pic: Archant Library. - Credit: Norwich City Council

But wary representatives from Sprowston Town Council recently met with planning officers from Broadland District Council to discuss the amount of public green space allotted in future large scale housing developments. 

Sprowston Town Council chairman Bill Couzens said amenity space in some developments merely includes grass verges when folk would prefer to see provision for parks and football pitches. 

Mr Couzens added: "We need to make sure it is not just an urban sprawl and that we have green spaces but the town council is just an observer. It's the district council which makes the decision.

"Sprowston is a growing part of the development triangle.

"Everyone in Sprowston lives somewhere that was once farmland but we do ultimately need the houses for people. The fact of life is there is an expanding population." 

Sprowston town councillor Bill Couzens who has lived in the town for 30 years

Sprowston Town Council chairman Bill Couzens - Credit: Santos Photography

One of the major developments being lined up is the Beeston Park proposal which would see 3,500 homes built in Sprowston and Old Catton on 400 acres of land to the north of the city.

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The major urban extension got outline planning permission almost a decade ago - but work to build the homes is yet to begin.

Beeston Park development in Old Catton/Sprowston.

An artist's impression of what was planned for the Beeston Park development in Old Catton/Sprowston. - Credit: Beyond Green

Mike Bodkin, head of planning at London-based agency TOWN, which is promoting the development, said: "Planning permission for Beeston Park takes full account of planning policies with regard to open space.

"This includes providing for a large new country park serving the whole area, together with recreation grounds and numerous smaller local parks, habitat areas and play areas." 

Mike Bodkin, head of planning at TOWN which is promoting the Beeston Park development proposals 

Mike Bodkin, head of planning at TOWN which is promoting the Beeston Park development proposals - Credit: Tom Pilston

Further consultation will be brought forward in detail for these plans in due course. 

It comes as the Covid pandemic illustrated the importance of green spaces for mental and physical wellbeing. 

Data from Google Mobility Trends shows the number of people visiting parks and outdoor spaces across the UK has increased by 40pc in May 2022 compared to a five-week period from January 3 to February 6, 2020.

Jon McDermott is a planning analyst for consultants Town Planning Expert which he co-founded in 2012. 

He referred to the recent Queen's Speech reinforcing national framework policy to protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Mr McDermott said: "The current range of policies out there go quite some way to protect parks and green spaces from development and to drive it on to brownfield sites and out of green areas."  

 Jon McDermott, a planning analysis who founded Town Planning Expert 

Jon McDermott, a planning analyst who founded consultancy firm Town Planning Expert - Credit: Town Planning Expert 

In urban planning, brownfield land is any previously developed land that is not currently in use.

Mr McDermott said larger developers can try to "use an erosion of policy control" to ensure the need for housing "takes greater precedent" over protecting green spaces. 

But he added: "A developer must show an enhancement to the area which could be local facilities like turning an AstroTurf pitch into 4G." 

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has previously stated largescale housing projects in Norwich must demonstrate a more robust commitment to the environment.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: Antony Kelly

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

Norwich-based TV presenter and conservationist Dr Jess French said: "Providing more homes while simultaneously restricting their occupants' ability to access green spaces creates as many problems as it solves.

"People need green spaces for their physical and mental wellbeing. Our planet needs green spaces to provide the things that we and our fellow animals need to survive.

TV presenter and veterinary surgeon Jess French. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

TV presenter and veterinary surgeon Jess French. Picture: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Archant

"We are too far into the climate and biodiversity crisis to make short-sighted decisions now." 

A spokesman for Broadland District Council confirmed they had met with Sprowston Town Council to discuss the latter's concerns and there are no current plans lodged to develop on existing open spaces in the district.

What is Greater Norwich Local Plan?

The GNLP was formally submitted to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to examine in late-July.  

Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council are working together for the project.  

They suggested more than 500 locations after a call for sites in 2015 and another 200 were subsequently put forward in 2018.

The plan's objectives include providing "high-quality homes of the right density, size, mix and tenure to meet people’s needs".  

But there has been debate about how the homes should be spread out across the three districts.

Councillor Shaun Vincent, chairman of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership said: "We need to make sure that future growth brings benefits for all, while protecting our environment and providing for a sustainable future."