New town could be answer to district's rapid growth

Cringleford, near Norwich, is set to double in population over the next decade due to major developm

An aerial view of fast-growing Cringleford, just outside Norwich.

South Norfolk is a fast-growing district which benefits from its proximity to Norwich, as well as straddling roads and railway lines to Cambridge and London. 

But which parts of the area are growing the most, and what challenges will more homes bring?

John Fuller, Conservative leader at South Norfolk Council, said: “Casting your mind back to 1973, when South Norfolk Council assumed the responsibilities of all the old urban and rural district councils, since then, at a steady rate, year on year, south Norfolk’s grown about 1pc to 1.5pc a year. 

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller

South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller - Credit: Rose Sapey

“That’s a long term trend. Since that time, we’ve gone from a population of about 85,000 to 140,000 people. 

“And we still have one of the best quality of lives in the whole country, so it is possible to have housing growth and maintain quality of life.”

Under the drafted Greater Norwich Local Plan, up to 13,688 new homes are allocated to be built in the district by 2041.

Of that number, at least 8,588 are planned for Wymondham, Hethersett, Cringleford, Easton and Long Stratton alone. 

The draft Greater Norwich Local Plan includes potential sites for thousands of new homes. Photo: Bro

The draft Greater Norwich Local Plan includes potential sites for thousands of new homes. Photo: Broadland District Council, Norwich City Council, South Norfolk District Council - Credit: Archant

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He said looking ahead over the next 50 years, it was probably not going to be realistic to keep adding onto existing settlements "like an onion skin".

"At some stage, we’ve probably got to grasp the nettle and consider a brand new settlement," he said.

An aerial view of the new bus interchange at Round House Way in Cringleford. Pic: Transport For Norw

An aerial view of Cringleford bus interchange - Credit: Transport For Norwich

“We’ve laid the groundwork for that in the current local plan, to be taken forward in the next five years - that is, the planning for it, the research, the investigations.

“Probably as we look forward to about 2026, we’ll be in a position to say that a new settlement, that complements and does not compete with existing settlements, is the way forward.”

Sonya Blythe, clerk to Cringleford Parish Council, said: “We’ve already doubled [in size] once obviously with Roundhouse Park [a new development], and now there’s another 1,250 houses going in.”

Sonya Blythe, clerk to Cringleford Parish Council

Sonya Blythe, clerk to Cringleford Parish Council - Credit: Supplied by Sonya Blythe

She said the council had worked well with developers, and they had succeeded in shaping some of the plans. 

“There’s no obligation, a lot of people don’t realise this, to put street lights anywhere.

“But we’ve managed to work with all of them, and we’ve asked for streetlights, and we’ve had to agree to therefore fund those for the rest of their lives, but at least the parishioners will have safe walking areas, which is so important now.”

She said the county council has committed to establishing a new primary school at one of the new developments, but that children currently have to travel out of Cringleford for secondary school. 

She said the village would be gaining new playgrounds and open spaces, and was hoping to have a new pump track set up for local teenagers to enjoy. 

Adrienne Quinlan, chair of Hethersett Parish Council, said there were concerns about whether the village’s GP surgery could cope with new housing. 

Chair of Hethersett Parish Council, Adrienne Quinlan

Chair of Hethersett Parish Council, Adrienne Quinlan - Credit: Adrienne Quinlan

“With our own doctors’ [surgery], we have a particular problem in the village, because the site isn’t big enough to expand on.

“But we all do know, even if we get a bigger doctors’ [surgery], you’ve then got the national problem with [a shortage of] local GPs, haven’t you?”

She added that the village benefitted from “really good schooling”.

“We’ve got two junior schools and a secondary school, and by the time my young grandsons, who are at the beginning of the school system, get to the top, they can probably do all of their schooling in the village, which is a really good thing.”

The village’s demographic also appears to be becoming younger, she said, as young families are attracted by the new housing and closeness to Norwich - while enjoying a degree of seclusion. 

“It’s a bit like Norfolk, I always think, Hethersett - nobody comes here unless they’re coming here. You don’t go through here," she said.

“We’re so lucky - we’ve had more bypasses than anybody else put together.”