"Government proposals to radically alter the planning system have attracted widespread criticism. The National Trust and CPRE have pointed out that they are based on a presumption in favour of development and do not give sufficient protection to the landscape. While national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and green belts appear to be safe from the threat of excessive development, so-called “ordinary” countryside, ie the majority of the UK, is not.
Most of Norfolk does not have special landscape status and we won’t even have to wait for the new planning system to be introduced to see large chunks of our countryside allocated for housing – the core strategies of local councils have already begun this process.
The Greater Norwich Development Partnership’s Joint Core Strategy for Broadland, South Norfolk and Norwich includes plans for 37,000 extra houses by 2026, mainly on greenfield sites. Long Stratton will double in size; 10,000 houses will be built in the “growth triangle” north east of Norwich; Wymondham and Hethersett are due for 3,200; Norwich will become a city the size of Nottingham. Andrew Proctor, the leader of Broadland Council, in order to support the case for the housing targets (EDP, September 21), highlighted the plight of local people unable to find the right type of housing for their needs. He is right to support the provision of new housing to satisfy these demands but he is wrong to use these needs in an attempt to justify the huge housing numbers in the Joint Core Strategy.
On September 21, the total number of applicants on the housing registers of Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk councils was 13,898, but only around 30pc are defined as inadequately housed (just over 4,000). It is scurrilous to attempt to justify the building of 37,000 new houses to cater for these needs, especially as there are currently 1,470 empty properties within the territory of these three councils.
CPRE fully supports the provision of an adequate level of new housing to satisfy local demand but the Joint Core Strategy is not really about this. It is a plan based on the encouragement of inward migration. The 33,000 extra houses that will be built in the Norwich Policy Area are mainly to cater for a planned population increase of 50,000 people.
Norfolk is special because it has a relatively low population density and because it is relatively remote from large industrial urban conurbations. It is therefore more tranquil than the majority of the UK; it suffers from less light and noise pollution and settlements are generally compact and separated from each other. It is these features that the massive growth in the JCS threatens. For starters, just imagine the congestion that will result
from the 42,920 extra cars that will accompany the building of 37,000 new houses (average number of cars per UK household is 1.16).
Supporters of growth cite rising population numbers and decreasing household size as reasons for building all these additional houses. However, the average number of children per couple in the UK is below replacement levels and average household size, currently less than 2.3, surely cannot fall much further. Even if the UK population reaches 70,000,000 by 2030, it then becomes more important that rural, tranquil places like Norfolk are protected from large-scale development. Overcrowded Britain needs its green lungs and national policy should prevent the homogenisation of everywhere into some kind of Home Counties suburban clone.
CPRE wants local people to campaign for a reduction in the housing targets and there will be opportunities to review the core strategies as it becomes increasingly apparent that the economy cannot support the high levels of growth envisaged. Massive house building programmes will not produce some kind of utopia. The USA, and Spain fell into the trap of believing they would and now each has millions of empty unwanted houses. Norfolk needs to “Do Different”."