New Norwich housing blueprint agreed
Sarah HallControversial plans on where to build more than 30,000 new homes and locate new businesses and roads in and around the Norwich area have been given the seal of approval - despite concerns about whether the region's water supplies will be able to cope.Sarah Hall
Controversial plans on where to build more than 30,000 new homes and locate new businesses and roads in and around the Norwich area have been given the seal of approval - despite concerns about whether the region's water supplies will be able to cope.
Norwich City Council last night became the last of three councils which form the Greater Norwich Development partnership (GNDP) to rubber stamp what is known as the joint core strategy (JCS) - a blueprint for development around the city up until 2026.
But major questions remain about the effect on water supplies all the development would have, while protesters gathered outside City Hall because the controversial Northern Distributor Road forms a key part of the plan.
Members of Stop Norwich Urbanisation (SNUB) were behind the protest. They have questioned whether the strategy is sound, warning it could be costly if an inspector decides it is not suitable.
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Questions have been raised about the soundness of the plans because of concerns about waters supplies, with Natural England calling for the housing levels to be rethought after an Environment Agency report concluded growth cannot be accommodated without 'significant risk of harm' to ecology of the River Wensum.
It has also emerged backers of the Rackheath eco-town project are facing a race against time to prove that water supplies can be delivered without harming the environment and there was 'ambiguity' as to whether that had been taken into account in previous studies.
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Councillors at Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council had approved the plan last week and the city council gave it the nod last night - although the Greens voted against it because of their concerns.
Council leader Steve Morphew acknowledged the plan was not perfect and was still a 'work in progress'.
But he warned delaying it would simply pave the way for more speculative developers to submit plans for thousands of homes in an unregulated fashion.
He said: 'No plan is perfect and no plan can deal with everything. What we need to do is move on to the next stage.
'We have already got developers in South Norfolk making speculative inquiries on areas of land with 5,000 homes here and there.
'If there's not a policy in place, they can put in a planning application, see it turned down and then win on appeal.
'They will then build without the infrastructure and place added pressure on other parts of Norwich.
'By having the joint core strategy you negate against that sort of thing. We are not there yet and we know there are risks, but we have got to start somewhere.'
But Stephen Little, Green councillor for Town Close ward, said: 'There is just too much uncertainty in this for us to support it.
'There are some major areas of concern, one of which is water. We have to make sure what we are putting forward is sound.'
The strategy was agreed by 25 votes to 12 and will now go forward to the Secretary of State, and the councils will be hoping an inspector finds it sound, ahead of its adoption early next year.
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