This is the second “New Year” message that I have, as Chair of Stop Norwich Urbanisation, penned and just like the previous one at the beginning of 2010 we have during the last 12 months not seen any sod being turned in the headlong pursuit by Broadland District Council and others to concrete over swathes of productive agricultural land to provide inappropriate housing.
Does this mean that our campaigning has been successful? Well we take our reassurances from the public meetings we held at the beginning of 2010 where once again the local residents overwhelmingly indicated their support for what we are doing. Whilst we may well be seen as an “irritant” by some there is no doubt that there is a grudging respect for what we have achieved as witnessed by the wide variety of visitors to our website which, thanks to Salhouse Computers for their free support, has gone from strength to strength over the year.
Indeed our whole campaigning was recognised in a national campaigning competition sponsored by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (www.smk.org.uk) where I was on the final shortlist of three in the national community campaigner of the year category. This recognition is a great acknowledgement to all of the Core team of members who meet every two weeks to ensure that the campaign remains in the forefront of local residents minds. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all of their hard work and support over the last 12 months; they are a formidable team and I feel very humble to be their spokesperson.
I also need to thank the 3,196 local residents who have signed our petitions, which have now been presented to Keith Simpson MP so that he can advise the new Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) of the strength of feeling of local residents. This direct feedback is important as we saw a change of government mid year and the new coalition government seem to be indicating that no new developments are to be agreed unless the local community say they want it! Whilst this seems to be music to our ears the core message has been somewhat diluted by a mixture of contradictory messages from the ministerial team at DCLG. Nevertheless the cancellation of regional housing targets, the ideas and concepts behind the Big Community and the localism agenda seem to reinforce our own strategy, which was refreshed and published during the year.
There will of course be the opportunity to see a change in local government during 2011 as Broadland District Council, and others, holds elections and we look forward to the debate on the hustings. This council and the others who form the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) have not covered themselves in glory over the last 12 months and their arrogance in ignoring the local residents views is both staggering and downright rude. They demonstrated this arrogance at the various inspections of the Joint Core Strategy carried out by the Planning Inspectors over the last year and have chosen to even ignore recommendations from the Inspector when he suggested for example that their was no reason why the meetings of the GNDP should not be open to members of the public; they are still closed despite this.
Indeed the Examination in Public of the Joint Core Strategy was probably the defining event of the year. The team were present every day and spoke on most if not all of them. This level of commitment from dedicated volunteers demonstrates the strength of feeling and I know that the Planning Inspector was grateful for our input.
The year has also seen a growing relationship between similar community groups and us across the county who are all representing their local communities and residents on a wide range of issues. In particular we have the found the support of CPRE and NNTAG extremely helpful and the few enlightened locally elected members who have been overtly and sometimes covertly supportive is also very welcome; we wish them all well over the next 12 months.
Our own cause has also been reinforced by the anonymous donation of a substantial amount, which allowed us to employ the services of a local PR organisation for advice and guidance. We found this input extremely useful as we developed our forthcoming strategy and future plans and we thank our benefactor for this very practical support.
We are entering new territory over the next 12 months as the pressures build for key decisions to be made around the funding for the Northern Distributor Road (NDR), the associated Postwick Hub and of course the decision of the Planning Inspector on the “soundness” of the Joint Core Strategy. We will also be faced with several planning applications that will require our attention and we will need to work hard if we are to represent the local residents views. Lets not forget that we were, in 2010, instrumental in getting the planning application for Dakenham Hall Barns thrown out by the Planning Committee at BDC. We must not however underestimate the task and we will vow to remain vigilant on behalf of the local community.
Chair 11th Jan 2011