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A Planning Perpective on the New Development

By Hethersett's South Norfolk District Councillor Leslie Dale


In mid 2006 the Government, acting through its East of England Regional Assembly and its East Of England Plan document, “got together with” City, Broadland and South Norfolk District Councils [and with probable promises of infrastructural monies] persuaded their then Administrations, to abandon their draft revisions of their current Local Plans and to merge their strategic Planning Policy operations; forming up the Greater Norwich Development Partnership [GNDP], requiring c.37500 new houses and c.35000 new jobs by year 2021. 

Since 2006 the housing quota being sought by Government has incremented to a c.47500 new houses policy requirement by the year 2026. See the stats table on page 43 of the November 2009 GNDP Joint Core Strategy [JCS] document, add columns "b" and "g". 

Allowing for houses already in the pipeline and those to be taken by Broadland and City Council areas, South Norfolk must provide an extra c.9000 houses in the Norwich Policy Area [NPA] and up to 1580 houses outside of the NPA by year 2026. 

Prior to May 2007 the [inherited] GNDP consultation drafts suggested many development possibilities around the NPA and these included 4000 houses in Hethersett and 4000 houses in Wymondham policy. The joining up of Wymondham to the City by a continuous corridor of development along the B1172 could have been its logical outcome. 

During canvassing for the May 2007 election campaign it became clear that few if any Hethersett residents were in support of more housing, unless it was required as "Affordable Housing" for existing villagers' use. Indeed, only in recent days, some doorstep canvassing ahead of the “Bidwell” meetings, has discovered 3 residents who actually wanted new housing. 

My political party was elected on a manifesto pledge to protect "The Character of Market Towns and Villages". During the next c.12 months I reported Hethersett residents’ views to both the internal SNDC Local Development Framework committee and planning colleagues privately, as did colleagues elected in Wymondham. In May 2008 my colleagues initiated a policy change to spread the 9000 houses more equitably around South Norfolk. 

One obvious outcome was the retention of the individual identities of Hethersett and Wymondham; and a second outcome was the allocation of 1800 houses which would then fund a substantial part of the long needed bypass for Long Stratton, although funds from other public bodies might be needed for its completion.After several rounds of public and technical consultation, the JCS finally called for just a minimum 1000 houses for Hethersett [there are about 1800 “floaters” still to be distributed around the SNDC part of the NPA] and 2200 for Wymondham. These proposals have now been formally approved by all 3 Councils and sent off for Public Enquiry. 

Once the “Examination in Public” has gone by and not attracted changed allocations, SNDC is effectively locked in to the JCS allocations as a legal requirement; thereafter only some issue of detail or non conformance to lawful national or local planning policy can derail a subsequent planning application, over the “assigned” sites/lands. 

Currently the SNDC Local Plan is, theoretically, the ruling & lawful development document and it is the case that no new sites/lands have been “assigned”, SO FAR. SNDC Officers have started the process of working their way through c.800 landowner proposed sites to discover which are most “Sustainable”, in terms of schools, roads, water, sewers, gas, public transport--etc.


I must also point out that in event of a “hung” parliament, nothing is likely to change; HOWEVER the shadow spokesman for local planning matters has said that in event of the current Government falling, local communities will be allowed to change their local plans to reflect locally perceived needs and that the East of England Agency quango will be dismantled and ergo its housing target abolished. 

The difficulty, in this hypothetical situation, is in controlling what happens in the subsequent c.2 years, which would be taken up by the process of revising the shelved 2006 local draft plan with up to date demographic needs data and reflecting that into the various market town and village communities across South Norfolk.


It has to be said that :- 

* There is at least one landowner living within Hethersett Parish who may be part of the Bidwell consortium. 

* There are a handful of people who feel that more housing is required. 

* The vast majority of people do not want large quantities of new housing around Hethersett, so that it becomes a small town, losing its village identity and/or gains a second commercial centre. 

* The building styles of new properties should reflect the “rural ethos”; and that the “historic spine roads“ of Hethersett are incapable of accepting further increases in vehicular traffic at peak times.

* Until the site assignment process has completed its business in c.mid 2011 and then been approved by SNDC, any major application submitted could have a very difficult ride through South Norfolk’s Main Planning Committee. 

* If the Government does not change on May 6th, the Bristol Planning Inspectorate may feel obliged to go down on the side of its paymaster as regards a “major” appeal site. In this context it has to be said that the GNDP area is deficient in terms of 5 year land supply. This factor was one major reason why a Bristol Planning Inspector recently reversed the SNDC decision to refuse the Norwich Common application near Wymondham, when in reality the shortage of supply was NOT in South Norfolk. 

* The current JCS allocation for Hethersett clearly reflects the current Government’s housing requirement. Bidwells current proposal of 1200 houses obviously exceeds the 1000 proposed by the JCS and it proposes it in an untested location as regards “sustainability”. 

* The GNDP’s infrastructure survey is anecdotally reported to have estimated the residual Hethersett foul sewer capacity at c.1000 new houses; however SNDC Planning Officers now seem to be saying that any significant new development will require a new strategic interceptor sewer to Whitlingham. 

* The current GNDP Chairman is thought to be in the process of authoring a “next steps” parish and public briefing paper and timescale chart, but at the date of writing, this document is not yet ready.