Hopes for new schools and GPs to cope with rapidly expanding town
- Credit: Mike Page
Calls are being made to boost school and GP places in a suburban town off the NDR in the middle of a house building boom.
Sprowston, on the edge of Norwich, which had a population of just over 16,000 people in mid-2019, will welcome 1,834 new homes over the next few years in the Atlantic Avenue/White House Farm zone, Blue Boar Lane and Salhouse Road areas, some of which are already finished.
And between 1,000 and 1,500 homes could be built on the Beeston Park area, covering Sprowston, Beeston, and Old Catton, as well as another 1,200 potential new homes under the Greater Norwich Local Plan.
As part one of the 535-home Woodland Heath development off Salhouse Road, built by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes, five acres of land has been earmarked for a primary school to be run by Norfolk County Council.
But there are still concerns over future access to school places from the extra homes, as well as capacity at doctors' surgeries.
Sprowston town councillor, Bill Couzens, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years, said: "People want to work and live in Norwich and there is a great housing shortage. My main gripe is the lack of housing people can afford.
"You do get more traffic and people through housing but you benefit from improved facilities. A lot of people would love to have their children in Sprowston.
"The big issue is school and doctors places. There are not enough doctors to see people. Most of the schools are relatively full. Young children need to be educated where they live up until they are 11 so parents can walk to their children to school."
He added that housing growth was good for the area because it provided money to the town council for better sports facilities including a skatepark and play area, which could potentially be built off Blue Boar Lane.
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Mr Couzens said he hoped a new sports centre and football pitches would also be built.
The town councillor added there were hopes to expand Sprowston Community Academy on Cannerby Lane, run by Boudica Schools Trust, to take in 1,650 secondary school pupils from Autumn 2022 compared to its current 1,400 cohort, and an online consultation has been put out.
A report from the county council's cabinet in February 2021 said: "Housing in a large scale continues across this area so spare places in local schools are needed and will be taken up over the next few years."
The overall housing increase is part of the North Norwich Growth Triangle area for more than 12,000 homes in Sprowston, Old Catton and Rackheath, which all connect to the NDR.
Mr Couzens said that was why the area was desirable but he said more local employment opportunities were needed.
The cabinet report added the county council had committed to a new secondary school for Sprowston and children's services was working with Persimmon and the Greater Norwich Local Plan team so land is secured within the proposed 1,200 homes at White House Farm.
Natasha Harpley, who represents Sprowston on Broadland District Council, said: "I welcome housing but my biggest concern is the impact on doctors surgeries and dentists. You see buildings going up and the infrastructure comes later. It makes it difficult to plan.
"I was lucky to grow up in Sprowston but it has changed a lot. It still has a lovely community feel to it.
"The high school is enormous and it isn't just about infant and primary schools when building houses. High schools absorb numbers too."
The Rev Canon Simon Stokes, vicar of Sprowston and chairman of Sprowston Youth Engagement Project, said: "It is great the town is growing but there is a need for more facilities at the White House Farm end because traditionally they are at the southern end of the town.
"We need facilities nearer where people are."
He said he ultimately thought a proper youth centre would be needed.
And Jonathan Taylor, chief executive of the Sapientia Education Trust, which runs White House Farm Primary School, which opened in 2019, said the school would take in two reception entry classes rather than one from this September.
He said there would be enough spaces - 420 in total - for the extra homes and added: "We are keen to use the primary school to support the wider infrastructure. As housing growth develops there needs to be that planned community aspect to it. There are lots of opportunities to have joint use of facilities."
A Broadland District Council spokesperson said there were no plans for Sprowston to join up to Rackheath and green areas on the Norwich side of the NDR would be protected as well as Rackheath Park.
What homes are being built or planned?
- Woodland Heath off Salhouse Road (Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes)
535 homes including 91 affordable. Due to be finished in eight to nine years time and building work has started.
- Furlong Heath off Salhouse Road (Kier LIving)
213 private homes and 38 affordable. Building work has started.
- St Andrew's Park off Salhouse Road (Halsbury Homes)
366 homes. No houses have been built yet.
- Broadgate Park off Atlantic Avenue (Taylor Wimpey)
393 homes over four phases including 138 affordable homes. Building work started on March 2015. Broadgate Park is due to be complete by December 2022.
- Persimmon is also proposing another 1,200 homes on the White House Farm site off Atlantic Avenue and another development of over 500 homes in the same area has been approved.