We’ll press ahead with plans for Norwich homes

Council chiefs are to press ahead with controversial targets for thousands of new homes and a proposed new road in the greater Norwich area.

However, they will hold an early review into the figures once they know what government funding is likely to be available and whether ministers will set out any changes in planning rules. Members of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) agreed to stick with the targets for more than 30,000 new jobs and homes, and the Norwich northern distributor road (NDR), despite pressure from campaigners and fears of looming cuts in government spending.

The so-called joint core strategy (JCS) will also tone down any reference to the Rackheath eco-town scheme, replacing it with the term 'low carbon development' because of continuing uncertainty over government funding.

However, the four councils involved in the GNDP fear that if they leave the situation to drift any longer they will lose any legal protection because there will be no planning policies in place, leaving them vulnerable to developers bringing forward speculative applications for new developments. The decision means that a public inquiry into the plans can now be held in November and, if approved, can then be signed off.

But the partnership, which consists of four councils – Broadland, Norwich, South Norfolk, and Norfolk County Council – did hold back on plans to treat Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath and Thorpe St Andrew as a 'strategic allocation', amid warnings from inspectors that parts of the plans may be unsound.

Daniel Cox, right, leader of Norfolk County Council and chairman of the GNDP, said the partnership believed the figures were still sound, though a review was necessary, because of changing political and economic circumstances.

'The world around us is moving quickly, but we can't delay forever, because we are likely to get developers trying to develop in great swathes of greater Norwich where we do not want them to,' Mr Cox said. 'But there is a likelihood the housing numbers could change following the review and I think they are more likely to be reduced.'

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Andrew Proctor, deputy leader of Broadland District Council, said the changes, which also included minor amendments to plans for gypsy and travellers' sites and affordable housing levels, meant the JCS could now go forward to a public examination.

'The GNDP is keen to look at a review as soon as the current strategy is adopted,' Mr Proctor said.

'The other issue is around deliverability.

'We've talked many times about no growth without infrastructure and clearly that level of growth cannot possibly be delivered without it.

'We are in a situation where we are finding applications coming forward, which aren't in accordance with the local plan.'

But Denise Carlo, from the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group (NNTAG), said the councils were trying to railroad the plans through and secure policy approval for the NDR.

'The GNDP decision to proceed with the submission strategy, but to review it in the near future, is firstly an admission that their strategy doesn't reflect the new political and financial context and secondly a cynical move to bulldoze through an unpopular and unsound growth plan,' she said.

A spokesman for the GNDP said that since the strategy was prepared the political and financial context has changed such that delivery may be more challenging.

'Consequently, we are committing to a timely review to revisit assumptions in light of emerging changes to the planning system, the localism agenda and the availability of investment,' he said.

'A timetable and plan for this review will be presented to the next Policy Group meeting on 16 December.'

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