Rackheath eco-town plan drawn-up

Shaun LowthorpeBackers of the Rackheath eco-town want to press ahead with four projects by the end of the year.Shaun Lowthorpe

Backers of the Rackheath eco-town want to press ahead with four projects by the end of the year.

The government last week pledged up to �16m towards the scheme which will see more than 4,000 new eco-friendly homes built in the area - with the cash given to Broadland District Council.

Key to the plans are better bus and cycle links between Rackheath, Norwich and Wroxham and a retro-fitting proposal to bring hundreds of existing homes in the area up to the latest eco-standards.

But critics fear the area is at risk of being swamped by overdevelopment and have questioned the plan's green credentials.

Broadland councillors are tomorrow likely to give approval to the cabinet to make the detailed final decisions about when and how detailed projects should be brought forward.

A working party made up of councillors representing wards within the 'growth triangle' of Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath, and Thorpe, will also advise on what projects they would like to see in the area.

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At a meeting next Tuesday the cabinet is then expected to begin prioritising plans.

The first phase includes creating a dedicated group of officers to oversee the development as part of a 'new communities team', and two studies one on water usage and one looking at the social impact of the plans. An eco-education centre is also planned in the first phase to promote knowledge of the scheme.

Andrew Proctor, council deputy leader said the authority was keen to make an early start while involving people in what was going on.

'If you look at the proposals on the public transport side we would want to talk to the county council to make sure we get things moving pretty quickly, and we'd like to the do the same with the retro-fitting.

'We want to make sure that people are involved,' he said. 'The working party means that everybody can contribute.'

Meanwhile critics of the Norwich northern bypass, whose route passes by Rackheath, have warned that the project is far from certain of going ahead.

Andrew Boswell, leader of the Green group at Norfolk County Council, said a letter from the department for transport confirming support for the scheme, makes clear that a detailed package of sustainable transport measures had to be put together first before any money is released for the road.

Calling for county council funding to be put on hold he said it was time for the authority to 'up its game' on delivering sustainable transport.

But Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation said the call was a ploy by opponents of the road to try and get it scrapped. He said detailed plans on other schemes would be considered by cabinet in April.

'We are doing as much as we can, but there will come a time when there is very little work we can do without the NDR to give us the extra benefits to give us the extra room,' he said.

What do you think of the eco-town plans? Write to Letters Evening News Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk