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Homes plan could fund Long Stratton bypass

PUBLISHED: 14:31 18 November 2011 | UPDATED: 14:53 18 November 2011

Traffic in Long Stratton. Picture by Adrian Judd

Traffic in Long Stratton. Picture by Adrian Judd

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A period of growth is on the horizon for Norwich, with 37,000 new homes planned in and around the city by 2026. In the fourth part of a week-long series, we ask how the infrastructure for these new communities will be provided.

Aside from environmental worries over loss of countryside, many of the key concerns over the proposed urban growth around Norwich are about infrastructure.

The 15-year house-building target of 37,000 brings with it a need to ensure enough roads, schools and utilities are built to cope with the people in those new homes – before they overload existing services.

And nowhere is that argument more clearly crystallised than in Long Stratton, the south Norfolk village where the prospect of 1,800 new homes has been sweetened with the promise of a long-awaited bypass.

The village is notorious for its rush-hour traffic jams and has been the subject of a relief road campaign for decades.

A bypass is integral to the joint core strategy (JCS) adopted by the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP), which says developers hoping to build Long Stratton’s housing allocation must also fund the estimated £20m cost of the road.

The growth blueprint also lists a raft of other expected improvements including traffic management schemes, transport improvements and cycle routes.

But while many villagers welcome the commitment to the bypass, the plan has also found some scepticism within a congested community which has seen previous promises unfulfilled.

South Norfolk Council’s consultation on the proposals, which has generated 500 questionnaire responses and brought 200 people to public exhibitions, is due to end on Friday, November 18.

Tim Horspole, the authority’s planning and housing policy manager, said there had been a mixed reaction.

“There is a body of people who feel there is a need for a bypass and it should be built with public money, regardless of any enabling development,” he said. “Then there is another body of people who, albeit reluctantly, would agree that this is the only way it is achievable.

“There is also a strong anti-bypass contingent, but the overwhelming feeling I have picked up is that people have heard a lot of projects and proposals which looked to deliver a bypass and none has come to fruition.

“I would like to think we are talking about something that can be delivered this time.”

Mr Horspole said the JCS would ensure explicit legal conditions were attached to any future planning approvals, which would require the bypass to be completed by a certain “trigger point” in the building project.

“We have to acknowledge that if we are expecting the developer to build the road up-front, it probably won’t be viable for their cash flow,” he said.

“So there would be a need to allow a modest amount to be built first. We’re consulting on a trigger point of 250 houses before the bypass must be completed, otherwise no further houses could be built.”

Peter Smith, a former chairman of South Norfolk Council, who has campaigned for a bypass since the 1980s, said: “The main issue here is why we have to have all these houses to fund this bypass. That is totally unnecessary.

“It should be funded by the government, not by foisting another 1,800 homes on us.”

The exact bypass route, whether east or west of Long Stratton, will not be known until South Norfolk completes its assessment of potential development sites.

Council leader John Fuller said: “If Norwich is going to get all these houses, then so will Ipswich and the A140 will become even more important.

“So for me, not planning for a bypass at Long Stratton is unthinkable.

“If the developers want to build the houses, they will have to build the bypass as well. It’s that simple.”

Elsewhere, across Norwich’s rural hinterland, smaller communities share concerns about the effects of new housing on already stretched infrastructure.

The JCS identifies Blofield as a “key service centre” capable of taking 50 new dwellings, with a possible capacity for more if needed.

But an application has already been lodged with Broadland District Council for a maximum of 175 homes on farmland west of the village, wedged between the A47 and Yarmouth Road.

The planned development, named Manor Park, would also include employment areas and 2.4 hectares of open space, forming a buffer between homes and businesses, and running alongside the A47.

Stella Shackle is one of a group of Blofield residents opposing the plans, who say the village’s existing roads, school and health centre will struggle to cope with the extra people.

She said: “There are days when the village is gridlocked. Our junior school, which is brilliant, is already chock-full and our doctors’ surgery seems to be working very hard.

“It is not a ‘nimby’ attitude. People know more housing is needed, but let’s have it in small clusters.

“If this development did go ahead, it would be building on a greenfield space and top quality agricultural land. Once that’s gone, its gone.”

A design statement submitted by Beacon Planning on behalf of the landowners says the proposed Manor Park development would bring many benefits to the village.

They include creating affordable housing to meet local needs, more custom for local shops, an attractive new “edge” to the village, enhanced footpath networks, new play areas and increased biodiversity as a result of tree and shrub planting.

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