School place concerns dismissed as hundreds of village homes approved

Village sign at Rackheath, Photo: Bill Smith.

Village sign at Rackheath, Photo: Bill Smith. - Credit: Archant © 2008

Hundreds of homes set for development in a village have been given the green light, despite concerns over school places.

An application for 205 homes on land adjacent to the Mahoney Green industrial estate in Rackheath was recommended for approval by Broadland District Council's planning officers, despite being outside the development plan's settlement boundaries.

Planning officer Charles Judson told Wednesday's planning committee that Rackheath was considered suitable as part of the Greater Norwich Local Plan's significant growth area.

Councillors raised a variety of concerns, particularly over school places, access to the site and green space.

Mr Judson said the local primary school is at capacity and with other development planned in the area children may need to be bussed to other schools. 

Councillor Caroline Karimi-Ghovanlou argued the development needed more open space for children and branded green space in the plans "not sufficient" as it requires a trek across the northern distributor road.

She added: "Do you know how many years time they’re going to build a school there?

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"Busing is not relevant anymore, it’s very difficult to get a paid bus service for children now.” 

Caroline Karimi-Ghovanlou, councillor for Taverham North

Caroline Karimi-Ghovanlou, councillor for Taverham North - Credit: Caroline Karimi-Ghovanlou

Mr Judson said: “We will be looking for the early delivery of an initial primary school to help rectify that issue so yes, there are capacity issues but I expect those to be addressed in the future.

"Unfortunately, busing children to school is acceptable in planning terms."

Mr Judson said the plans were at an early stage and open space could be secured on or off-site.

He added the provision of 33pc affordable housing in the plans, 5pc above development policies, gives a “modest benefit”.

Kenneth Leggett was concerned about there being only one road access for a site expected to hold around 400 cars.

Mr Judson said highways officers had raised similar concerns but not objected to the plans, while councillor John Ward said there had been a development in Thorpe St Andrew 20 years ago that had single access and had never had an issue. 

Councillors voted to approve, six for and three against. 

A Taylor Wimpey spokesman welcomed the committee's decision, thanking the community for their feedback.

"We are confident that we have prepared a high-quality development scheme which will provide much-needed new homes for the local area and we will continue to engage with local people," he said. 

Rackheath reaction

Getting the right infrastructure in place is key for new developments.

That is the view of Fran Whymark, who represents Rackheath on Broadland District Council, and lives in the village, who said planning approval for the 205 homes off Mahoney Green was inevitable.

Mr Whymark said: "The big issue is infrastructure."

Fran Whymark, Broadland District Councillor

Fran Whymark, Broadland District Councillor - Credit: Archant

He believed there was a need for more school places and wanted work to start on a new school as soon as possible if Taylor Wimpey got planning permission for around 4,000 homes north of the village. A formal application is yet to be submitted.

The district councillor said he was always concerned about access to the public open space on the other side of the NDR calling it "ridiculous".

He added the cost of maintaining the green areas within the new development, as well as the new open space would fall to Rackheath Community Council claiming: "It will ultimately cost money."