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We may need radical solutions to ease Norfolk's problems

PUBLISHED: 09:15 30 May 2018

There are plenty of green spaces in Norfolk where a garden town could be built, says David Powles.

There are plenty of green spaces in Norfolk where a garden town could be built, says David Powles.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Does Norfolk need garden towns or villages to help ease its housing needs? David Powles says nothing should be off the agenda.

How should Norfolk grow? That’s the question being debated by a working group of people from many walks of life as part of an ongoing project headed by South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon. I am part of that group.

It has no decision-making powers, in fact it doesn’t really include local councillors as its aim is to take a bit more of an overview and come up with ideas and options which potentially the powers-that-be haven’t considered.

But this group isn’t just about where and how many homes should be built in Norfolk. It’s much wider than that and has also debated the type of homes Norfolk needs, the possibility of a brand new development (garden town or village) being built, how to ensure we make the most of the rise of tech jobs, how to stop the brain drain from Norfolk, how to ensure the county attracts the best brains for the modern world and even whether the current local authority make-up in the county is fit for purpose.

All of these are key issues facing us now.

Last week the group met to discuss progress so far and what to focus on next. There were discussions about Long Stratton and how that can, in some ways, stand up as a model of how best to ensure new development is introduced with people in the area involved in the process.

Villagers have been able to work with companies like BT to make sure the proper infrastructure is in place for the growth in homes and businesses it is expecting over the next few years.

I’d like the group to become an even more strident champion of new ways of thinking and different approaches to solve some of the problems Norfolk faces. It shouldn’t be afraid to be disruptive and put noses out of joint if it’s for the best of Norfolk. It mustn’t just be another talking shop.

Take the issue of garden villages or towns. Practically no-one will want them near to where they live and some will fear over-development risks ‘spoiling’ what it is we love about Norfolk.

However, we know Norfolk needs to find thousands more homes to meet expected growth demands. If we’re honest, there’s surely plenty of green space that could be sacrificed and perhaps having a new community rise amongst us would actually be quite exciting. Especially if it was state-of-the-art development, environmentally-friendly and affordable.

This wonderful county has in the past had a reputation for being a bit too stuck in its ways and against change of any kind. But perhaps the answer to some of the challenges we face is to think the opposite. Perhaps we need to embrace change as long as it’s done in the right way?

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