The End of the Beginning...

I went to the first public meeting, since they started 5 years ago, of the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) yesterday (Thursday 15th Dec) at the Council chambers in Norwich City Hall.  Let me set the scene…..

Messrs Proctor and Kirby sat on the bench used by, I assume, the leader of the Council, which meant that they sent a very strong signal that they were in charge.  Whilst I guess that Proctor could sit in the Mayors chair, as Chair of the GNDP, I’m not sure in what capacity Kirby was operating in?  It was a curious mix of elected officer and part funded official both of whom are the main architects of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) operating in tandem although Kirby said very little.  Actually the net result was both of them looked very isolated on the top table and they both looked quite small against the splendour of the chamber.

There were two attendees from SNUB (myself and Richard), two from the Green Party (Denise Carlo and Andrew Boswell), Chris Hill from the EDP (see his article at and two other members of the public.

On the floor of the chamber were contingents from South Norfolk (sat on the right), Norwich City (sat in the centre) and Broadland (sat on the left).  Must be the first time that Norwich City has taken a central position!  Each of the delegations consisted of a mix of officials and officers from each of the councils.

From what I could see the only representative from Norfolk County was the leader, Derrick Murphy, and there appeared to be no representative from the Broads Authority.  Mental note; must try and understand or ask the Broads Authority what their role is in the GNDP?

The first utterance from the Chair was a self-congratulatory statement about the funding for the NDR that had been announced the previous day.  They were very smug as one could expect!  Although on member, from Norwich City, cautioned that this was merely the “end of the beginning” rather than the “start of the end”.

They then went onto to the legal challenge of the JCS by SNUB and merely stated that they expected a decision early in January.  There was no discussion about what to do if they lose and as the next meeting of the GNDP is not until 15th March they clearly expect to win.  Arrogant sods!  However Kirby did wave a piece of paper in Neville Chamberlain style, which was not in the public pack of papers, and I will make a note to get a copy of the note.

There was then a series of discussions, which were of a technical nature with planning officers making presentations to the GNDP.  Questions were asked and clarification sought by the South Norfolk contingent (John Fuller their leader was the main protagonist) and it made me wonder about the extent of the internal feuding between the members of the GNDP.  Were they on their best behaviour as members of the public were in attendance for the first time? There was certainly an undertone particularly when the distribution of the Community Investment Levy (CIL) was discussed.

Another interesting discussion was around the financial viability of the JCS.  This was demonstrated by an example of a hypothetical 250-house development.  Not sure why 250 was used as the majority of the planned developments in the JCS are for much greater size than that.

Anyway the discussion was based on what the Residual Land Value for the development would be.  This is the way that developers work out whether it would be financially viable to build the proposed houses.  This is very important calculation and the national benchmark agreed by all key stakeholders is £500,000 per hectare, which equates to 10,000 square metres i.e. the equivalent of a square, each side having a length of 100 m.  This is the size of an international Rugby Union pitch like the one at Twickenham.

The GNDP use figures from the Homes and Community Association, which showed that the JCS has a residual land value of £725,053 per hectare once all of the costs and CIL is taken into consideration.  This clearly makes it viable and attractive for the developers and shows that for 250 houses there would be the following affordable houses:

1 Bed Flat      18
2 Bed Flat      13
2 Bed House  30
3 Bed House  15
4 Bed House  7
TOTAL                        83 units representing 33%

However 13 of these houses (5 x 2bed, 5 x 3bed and 3 x 4bed) will be for intermediate use that is sold on an equity share basis and not real social housing.  This makes real affordable social housing for rent at 28%.


The developer’s figures show that with this level of affordable housing and their own estimate of costs (much higher than the HCA estimate) the Residual Land Value would equate to £312,968 per hectare and therefore not viable.  This means that no developer would build these houses unless there was a drop of the affordable housing to 18% that would result in the following housing mix:

1 Bed Flat      11
2 Bed Flat      8
2 Bed House  13
3 Bed House  9
4 Bed House  4
TOTAL                        45 units representing 18%

If you then apply the same ratio of intermediate use as above the real number of affordable social housing for rent stands at 34 units that is 14% of the total build.

The developers are therefore saying that they would only build these houses with 33% affordable housing if there were an increase in house values of circa 7%.  The latest forecast from the Royal Charted Institute of Surveyors (RICS) is for at best an increase of 2.5%!  The planners from the GNDP could only say that Norwich is better than the average in terms of housing prices and they would expect house prices to rise more than 2.5%.

Interesting and disappointing that the EDP did not pick up on this even though I mentioned it to Chris Hill at the end of the meeting.

The final part of the meeting was a briefing from the newly formed Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) formed in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft which is being led by Suffolk County Council.  The spokesperson stated that there was Growing Places Fund that had £12m available for infrastructure and jobs creation schemes.  A small team had been set up to prioritise applications for this fund which may also include cross border initiatives from the LEP’s in Cambridgeshire and Essex.

A couple of other interesting snippets. 

The admission that there would be severe cash flow challenges as the JCS was front-loaded with costs before the CIL starts to become income.  And…

Developers have to build garages to sell houses!  So much for a sustainable development with potential residents using public transport and not having garages built.  Remember the plan to pay for on site parking to discourage car ownership!

Overall an interesting meeting and the next one is due on the 15th March.  


  1. ' Dilution-; watering-down or weaking'! I think we need to remind the members of ALL district council planning commitees of 'Dilution' with respect to previous statements on certain developements and especially future ones, now being broken or forgotten.Remember the Rackheath 'eco-traing' centre, a dedicated training facility ( to replace the existing perfectly adequate one) where schools and members of the business and community can come to learn about 'eco-living'?...well, the amended travel plan states that the majority of schools will be 'out-reached' by staff?..also,the remainder of eco-info will be available 'on-line'? just exactly what was the justification for this waste of our money!..and remember the so-called 'exemplar'in Rackheath? ...200 'world-class' houses where they will build them to the highest standards possible, ( 20 of these to be built to grade '6' and the rest, the highest standard possible!.. a 'Rackheath standard')..well the latest is that Barrats will not build any houses to grade 6 standard?( why do they need bother when BDC have cleverly used POD money on 14 high standard houses in Trinity Close to use as 'show-houses')..they also intend to reduce the percentage of affordable housing percentage drastically? this is 'world class' is it?...or is this the 'Rackheath standards', the 'smoke and mirrors' that SNUB have warned us against...a 40 house per hectare housing estate built on grade 2 agricultural lands with no infrastructure? ...a simple 'gateway' to 7000 more 'boxes'..these, and many more 'watered-down' developements are 'planned' and are coming to a village near YOU...'keep em peeled' as Shaw Taylor used to say..old Rackheath resident.

  2. A really interesting analysis of the 'affordable housing' promises and how they will almost certainly be broken. I wish I knew what the expression 'front-loaded' meant though!

    The best bit in the Evening News article was the explanation of how the new housing levy could raise enough to pay for the NDR which makes the new houses that would pay for it possible. A circular argument if ever there was! Let's hope the judge see through the smokescreen and chucks the whole thing out.

  3. Thanks SNUB for giving us such a good report of this Quango who at last meets in Public. I am still puzzled as to why we need 37,000 new homes. That could equate to 75,000 people, yet Broadland's waiting list is only just over 3,000. Is this why some of the new developments are being advertised in London ? With all the custs in essential services amazing to see we still have the money for the NDR Road going nowhere. Tell that the Armed Forces fighting in Afghanistan with substandard equipment due to lack of funds ! If we had the spare cash surely the Acle Straight and the rail line to London is far more important than the NDR.

  4. When are our so-called Elected Councillors going to take up to the real financial crisis facing our Country. They just spend taxpayers money like water, even when they do NOT have it to spend. Perhaps they should ask themselves the question "Would I spend this money if it was mine" ?

  5. I would compliment Steven on presenting so much detail from the CIL discussions. It has a major impact on the viability of the whole Housing Strategy.
    Unfortunately, the Inspector who clearly knew it was unviable could only bring himself to adjust the Affordable Housing down from 40% to 33%.
    We believe that was not going to resolve the problem and more recent developments show that we are right.

    In his summary, Steven points out that the impact of this will be to reduce the rental element of social housing to a much lower level about 14-15%.

    So the GNDP look on the bright side and judge that house prices will rise again from next year! Surely, this will only make the plight of new buyers worse. Everyone, knows that house prices are much too high and the whole strategy is based on a flawed perspective.

    One really frightening interjection by the GNDP's CEO - they were looking at other ways to cover the funding gap ......and this would include, pensions!!!
    I think she must have forgotten that the public were present.

    The coalition says you do not tackle a debt crisis by creating more debt....that is exactly what they are doing.

  6. A merry Christmas to all at SNUB and a well-deserved rest. The Bishop of Norwich mentioned E.F. Schumacher's book "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered" in a sermon at a carol concert the other day - he said it was more important than ever these days, but everyone had forgotten about it. Perhaps if the GNDP simply re-named itself the Smaller Norwich De-Growth Partnership, they might get the right end of the stick and bark up the right tree!

  7. I agree with Richard Williams. Thatcher sold off most of the social housing stock and encouraged people into the trap of mortgage slavery.
    Banks, Building Societies and Estate Agents prospered and house prices rose. Now we have the cost of housing at an extraordinary level. I wonder how long it will be before some smart alec kid comes up with the idea that the only way people can afford houses is to mortgage over two generations.