Water fears for Rackheath eco-town
Shaun LowthorpeBackers of the Rackheath eco-town are facing a race against time to prove they can meet the water needs of more than 4,000 homes without draining the environment amid warnings that there is not enough supply to go around.Shaun Lowthorpe
Backers of the Rackheath eco-town are facing a race against time to prove they can meet the water needs of more than 4,000 homes without draining the environment amid warnings that there is not enough supply to go around.
More than 4,000 new homes are to be built in the area along with the creation of hundreds of new jobs as part of Gordon Brown's flagship plan to create four new eco-communities in the country.
But Broadland District Council must complete a water cycle study showing how supplies can be delivered sustainably to the new developments to convince the Environment Agency that the scheme should go-ahead.
A council report has flagged up the mammoth task facing the authority if it is to stand any chance of getting a planning application in by the end of the year.
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The report, which will be considered by the cabinet on Tuesday, notes that the Environment Agency already defines the Rackheath area as 'being under serious water stress' in an area of lower than average rainfall coupled with high levels of abstraction and there is 'some ambiguity' over whether previous water studies for the greater Norwich area included the eco-town development area and its impact.
Normally it takes 18 months to complete a water cycle study and the report warns the council faces 'significant challenges' to meet the December deadline.
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Broadland council leader Simon Woodbridge said he believed that engineers would find an eco-solution on the problem which would not cause too much of a drain on existing supplies.
But he conceded that failure to find a solution would be a 'showstopper' for the project, though similar issues facing Dussindale and Thorpe Marriott had previously been overcome.
'We have got to find an engineering solution to provide the drinking water,' Mr Woodbridge said. 'As it stands there isn't enough water in the system to make provision for these homes, we are just working through it. It's a process we have got to go through to say what do have to do to have enough water. An engineering solution isn't that hard to prepare, but it will take time to deliver.'
Stephen Heard, chairman of SNUB (Stop Norwich Urbanisation), which is fighting the plans said: 'Water is just one of a number of concerns that we have about this site. It just goes on and on. It's just not a viable site, the whole thing is crazy.'
Wroxham councillor Ben McGilvray said: 'Water shortages are already common and we regularly get hosepipe bans during the summer. If we are going to get 4,000 homes added to the existing system we've got make sure it doesn't damage the supplies for the people who already live here.'