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Residents fear new homes threat

PUBLISHED: 10:08 07 May 2008 | UPDATED: 14:31 14 July 2010

The historic market town of Wymondham has seen many changes over the years.

But now residents fear there is a new threat on the horizon in the shape of a massive housing development that will encompass a huge swathe of land to the south of the town.

The historic market town of Wymondham has seen many changes over the years.

But now residents fear there is a new threat on the horizon in the shape of a massive housing development that will encompass a huge swathe of land to the south of the town.

London-based planning giant Barton Willmore has submitted a planning application on behalf of Pelham Holdings for 3,000 new homes, 750 of which will be affordable, a business park and the infrastructure, facilities and services to support them, including a primary school, a sixth-form college, a nursery and three local centres providing shops and other facilities, including a medical centre.

The multi-million pound scheme would also include a new foul treatment plant and surface water drainage system.

Pelham Holdings says the sustainable mixed-use “urban extension”, covering 192 hectares, will provide the area with much-needed new homes over the next 12 years, together with job opportunities and community facilities.

But many residents fear the development, if approved, will change the face of Wymondham forever.

Some 280 worried townsfolk attended an extraordinary meeting of Wymondham Town Council last week. A poll of attendees showed all were against the proposal and, following a debate, the town council unanimously recommended the scheme be refused.

They said the majority of the proposed development was outside the development boundary and contrary to the local plan and would have an unacceptable impact on the protection of environmental habitats. It also had the potential to increase the population of Wymondham by 50pc “adversely changing the character of the district,” and would have an unacceptable impact on the community and landscape.

It was also felt the proposed development would “create a Wymondham of two communities divided by a physical barrier of the railway line,” place an unacceptable strain on the existing infrastructure and community facilities, and provided insufficient highway improvements to handle the increased flow of traffic.

The application could be determined by South Norfolk Council's planning committee as early as July, but if it is refused and the company appeals it could be referred to the secretary of state.

Residents opposed to the scheme say they are concerned about the scale of the development and say there is already a lack of existing services such as school places and medical facilities and that the development would put a strain on the town's infrastructure.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Julie Roach said: “I am really concerned that the proposals are outside the historic footprint of the town. If this is allowed to happen we can kiss goodbye to the rest of the land going up the A11 corridor. I do not know about anybody else, but I do not want to live in an urban sprawl. Where are all the jobs going to come from, and where are all the people going to come from?”

South Norfolk Council area planning officer Chris Trett, who was on hand to answer questions about the planning procedure, replied: “We know that there is a need for this level of housing. The demographics are rather complicated and it is not just the question of population expansion. We seem to be living in smaller and smaller households. I think we also get a degree of the chicken and the egg with this. Very often the availability of a labour pool can attract investment and employment. Here in Wymondham, after a few years of not moving very fast, in recent times things seemed to have picked up.”

Wymondham town councillor David Fletcher said he thought the development would destroy the community and added: “This proposal will divide Wymondham into two parts. Wymondham proper will receive very little benefit from this development. They talk about industry, but who will be coming to work in this industry? Why are these people coming to live in Wymondham and how many of them will actually do anything for the town? I cannot see they will contribute very much because they will get straight on the A11 and drive to Norwich, Thetford, Newmarket or Cambridge, or get the train and go to Norwich or Cambridge. One buzz word being banded about is sustainability. Since the year 1087 we have managed to do sustainability without any help from Barton Willmore.”

Pelham Holdings says that it has been working on the proposals for more than four years and that careful thought has been given to how a viable and sustainable development can be created. The company says that ensuring good access to and around the site is of key importance and that the development will bring a large number of transport improvements.

The plans include widening the existing railway bridge over Station Road to provide a full-width carriageway with footways and cycling provision. The company also says that the new services created will benefit both new and existing residents.

Pelham Holdings says the proposals will provide private and affordable housing to help meet both the local and wider need and that it has high environmental aspirations for the site with the development meeting Level 4 of the government's Code for Sustainable Homes.

Neil Warren, of Pelham Holdings, said the development offered the opportunity for sustainable growth that also preserves Wymondham's character. “The south Wymondham development can bring homes, jobs and a wide range of improvements that will greatly benefit local people.”

A website outlining Pelham Holding's plans can be viewed at www.southwymondham.info

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