Bid for 4,000 homes could turn village near NDR into 'town'
- Credit: Ben Hardy
A blueprint for nearly 4,000 homes in a rapidly-growing village would transform the rural idyll into "a town".
Outline plans from Taylor Wimpey for the 268-hectare plot, known as GT16, off Green Lane West in Rackheath, have been put forward to Broadland District Council and is part of the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP).
If approved the mixed use development would be built on a former US airbase, now used as agricultural land, could include up to 3,850 homes, land for two primary schools, one secondary school, orchards, allotments, employment land and sports facilities.
But district councillors fear development of the site, which has been earmarked for new homes since 2008, could be delayed because of new rules from Natural England.
The organisation has told Norfolk councils they must not grant permission for any projects which include overnight accommodation until developers can prove the plans would not lead to more nutrients flowing into waterways.
Conservative Martin Murrell, who represents Rackheath, said: "It is part of the Norwich Growth Triangle area and has been in local plans for a long time.
"The nutrient neutrality rule from Natural England is a shame because plans were coming forward. It has effectively stopped this temporarily. The nutrient neutrality change is unfortunate."
He added: "People say the expansion of Rackheath is a shame but the majority would have been expecting it. Taylor Wimpey have held several consultations and have listened to what we have requested. They have made mitigating circumstances.
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"The plot is part of the GNLP where there is a requirement for 45,000 houses and the Rackheath plans help meet this. It will also be done over a long period of time."
Mr Murrell said there was a challenge in introducing certain mitigating measures to boost environmental measures to stop nutrients flowing into waterways because the plot was under the Norwich Airport flight path and the risk of bird strikes posed a threat to planes.
Conservative district councillor Fran Whymark, who lives in Rackheath as well as representing the village, said: "It could be several months before plans are discussed, taking into account of nutrient neutrality.
"We are looking at how we work with developers to get houses built but it is going to be a long while before this realistically starts. Hopefully we can learn from other areas affected by nutrient neutrality.
"People need homes and looking at the GT16 plans it is pretty good. There is a lot of open space."
Mr Whymark added there were currently more than 500 houses being built in Rackheath on top of the 1,000 it currently has.
"Rackheath is going to be a town going forward. Infrastructure is essential. The sooner the better.
"The village is well placed for Norwich and the coast. It is a nice place to live. We have got a shortage of houses and there is an enormous amount of green space on offer at GT16. We want to make it a nice place to live."
He added the primary school was full and it was important the village got its dedicated medical centre, which could be built by March 2024 if unaffected by nutrient neutrality rules.
The Taylor Wimpey plot was originally earmarked for an eco-town under the Gordon Brown government in 2008 but in 2011 the plan was rejected and later became part of the masterplan for the Norwich Growth Triangle, according to Mr Whymark.
He said it could take 15 years to be built and would oppose any future plans for homes if the 3,850 homes are built adding: “We have had our fair share and don’t want to put a burden on any infrastructure we are going to get.”
Tony Emes, who lives in Wendover Park in Rackheath, which neighbours the proposed site, said: “The plans are good. There is open space. It is development and you have to accept it. We need infrastructure but I am encouraged by the plans. The communication so far from Taylor Wimpey has been open."
A Taylor Wimpey spokeswoman said: "We are working with consultants to develop a mitigation plan to address the nutrient neutrality advice and will remain in close contact with Broadland District Council in relation to this.
"We would like to thank the local community for their feedback on our plans to date and look forward to continued engagement with the local authority, councillors and residents as a mitigation plan is confirmed."
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."