Efforts step up to protect city park from development

The Deer Park in Old Catton. Pictured inset is councillor Karen Vincent

The Deer Park in Old Catton. Pictured inset is councillor Karen Vincent who has set up a petition against new homes being built on it - Credit: Kathy Branson/Denise Bradley

Campaigners are fighting back against a property developer in their determined bid to save a much-loved green space from being built on. 

The Deer Park in Old Catton - which is home to a variety of wildlife including foxes, deer, starlings, bats and owls - was bought by Norfolk housing company Devlin Developments earlier this year.

Director Lee Devlin has previously said he is "open minded" over the future of the park after purchasing it from the Buxton family.

But rebels and organisations such as Historic England are working to challenge any planning applications, which are expected to come forward.

The Deer Park in Old Catton 

The Deer Park in Old Catton - Credit: Ben Hardy

A Deer Park Action Group has gathered more than 250 members as they attempt to protect the Grade II listed park.

The action group and district councillor Karen Vincent are seeking to get it registered as an asset of community value. 

A drop-in event is being held on Saturday, July 9 in Old Catton Village Hall in which villagers will be assisted with sending letters to the district council as part of this application.

Kathy Branson, 63, is the chairwoman of the Deer Park Action Group, which is working closely with Mrs Vincent and Old Catton Parish Council regarding the Deer Park's future.

Members of the Deer Park Action Group attended the last parish council meeting where the Deer Park was discussed

Members of the Deer Park Action Group attended the last parish council meeting where the Deer Park was discussed - Credit: Kathy Branson

The chairwoman said: "We are trying to get a narrative ready so that if and when a planning application is received by Broadland District Council, we have got a series of information we can provide as to why it should not be agreed. 

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"The Deer Park is an oasis for wildlife and it is part of the green corridor of Old Catton. 

"It is also important for wellbeing. I was talking to a girl in the village who was saying she sees the Deer Park on the way to and from school. It is really important for her if she had a bad day." 

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton 

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton - Credit: Kathy Branson

The group is also seeking to meet with Mr Devlin in person to discuss the park.

Mr Devlin has not responded when asked if he would be engaging with the group and taking the park's listed status and the asset of community value application into consideration.

The new born foal at the Deer Park

The new born foal at the Deer Park - Credit: David Stansfield

Mrs Branson said: "We are hopeful that with a lot of community support the asset of community value application will be successful. It will be fantastic to be able to provide another level of protection to the Deer Park." 

The chairwoman recalled three previous planning applications for the Deer Park being thrown out in the past - most recently in 2004.

"The gentleman who led that campaign in 2004 is now acting as an advisor for this current campaign," Mrs Branson added. 

Mrs Vincent has organised the drop-in event as well as a public petition.

Broadland district councillor Karen Vincent, who represents the Old Catton ward, said she was shocke

Broadland district councillor Karen Vincent, who represents the Old Catton ward, said she was shocked by the news. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

This states: "Old Catton Neighbourhood Plan (2015-2035) seeks to protect the Deer Park in its entirety as an area of important open space in the Old Catton Conservation Area.

"If you agree housing development on any part of the Deer Park would damage its historical, visual and environmental importance, and you wish to see this development stopped, please sign our petition.”

Mrs Vincent said: "I was shocked when the parish council told us the Deer Park had been sold to a property developer and immensely disappointed the community was not given the opportunity to try and purchase it for our and future generations to continue to enjoy.

"I firmly feel this historic parkland and important green space, part of celebrated landscape designer Humphry Repton’s vision for Catton Park and Anna Sewell’s inspiration for ‘Black Beauty’, should be protected."

A spokeswoman for Broadland District Council said: "South Norfolk and Broadland Council received a nomination to list The Deer Park, Old Catton on June 8.

"The council now has eight weeks to review the nomination and a decision will be made on August 3." 

The new-born foal in Old Catton Deer Park 

The new-born foal in Old Catton Deer Park - Credit: Kathy Branson

Those interested in supporting the asset of community value application should write to Broadland District Council on communities@southnorfolkandbroadland.gov.uk by July 15 or attend the drop-in event on July 9, between 9.30am and 12.30pm.