Housing bosses insist pollution ruling will not force projects back by years

Boaters enjoying bank holiday Monday out on the River Wensum in Norwich.

People enjoying the River Wensum in Norwich - Credit: Archant

Housing boffins are insisting it's full steam ahead to regenerate the city despite fears of long delays following a new planning ruling.

The government's environment watchdog, Natural England, has told Norfolk councils they must not grant permission for any projects until developers can prove the plans would not lead to more nutrients flowing into waterways of the Broads and River Wensum.

The diktat was described as "dire" by a senior figure in local government this weekend, who added it could take up to two years to work around the ban.

But Phil Courtier, director of place at South Norfolk Council and Broadland District Council, has thrown out the theory.

He said: "I'm confident the delay won't be as long as two years. I think it will be less than one year.

"We want to make sure we get robust solutions to grant planning permission. We need homes people can afford. We need the economy to thrive. We are a pro-growth area and ambitious.

"We are not at a standing start. There is absolute political will to get this sorted across Norfolk."

The expert said Anglian Water was contributing to mitigating measures.

Martin Schmierer, leader of the Green group on Norwich City Council. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Martin Schmierer, who represents the Green Party on Norwich City Council for the Mancroft Ward - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

A city council spokeswoman added: “We are working at pace with other Norfolk authorities to implement short-term solutions to enable the granting of some permissions and hope to achieve this by this autumn.

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"The longer term mitigation is likely to be a Norfolk-wide solution and will take time to implement.”

Martin Schmierer, who represents the Mancroft ward for the Green Party on the city council, said: "So many of our rivers are polluted. It has been going on too long.

"The River Wensum is one of the finest chalk streams in Europe and it is vital for Norwich. It needs to be cleaned up."

He added it would be a shame if council house building was delayed.

An Anglian Water spokeswoman said: "Our treatment works are not contributing to nutrients above permissible levels. We support sustainable development."

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich's Business Improvement District, said housing was needed in cities to ensure future economic viability."