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Challenge to find the right place to build hundreds of Cromer homes

PUBLISHED: 09:41 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:41 24 November 2017

Cromer. Picture: MIKE PAGE/POPPYLAND PUBLISHING

Cromer. Picture: MIKE PAGE/POPPYLAND PUBLISHING

Archant

It is the Gem of the Norfolk Coast, but that does not make it immune from needing new homes for people to live in.

Philip Duncan with the plans for New Cabbell Park. Picture:  Eleanor PringlePhilip Duncan with the plans for New Cabbell Park. Picture: Eleanor Pringle

Indeed, Cromer has the highest recorded housing need in the North Norfolk district. In the last blueprint for where homes should be built - the Local Plan up to 2021 - the town was earmarked for between 400 and 450 new homes.

But it is not easy finding places in Cromer for homes. There’s not a lot of brownfield sites to redevelop, while there are significant environmental constraints.

Much of the surrounding landscape is within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and planners must balance the need for new homes with protecting the attractive setting of the town.

The latest version of the blueprint for where housing could be acceptable is being worked up, while the council has done an assessment of land.

Landowner Michael Gurney has begun consulting the public on proposals to create 300 new homes and sports pitches off Norwich Road in Cromer. Picture: Ally McGilvrayLandowner Michael Gurney has begun consulting the public on proposals to create 300 new homes and sports pitches off Norwich Road in Cromer. Picture: Ally McGilvray

That assessment is a pool from which sites can be tested and brought forward, but the inclusion of a site does not mean it will be granted planning permission.

In Cromer, there are a dozen sites identified where fewer than 50 homes could be built and 13 larger sites for developments of more than 50 homes.

Sue Arnold, North Norfolk District Council cabinet member for planning and planning policy, said: “Where in those communities to build is a crucial question and to answer that question we prepare the site allocations document.

“The thorough consultation work which takes place to feed that document ensures appropriate sites are found for development in what is, in Cromer’s case, a very attractive, busy seaside town and popular tourist destination.

“North Norfolk District Council works hard to make sure those sites are indeed appropriate and when individual development plans come forward for assessment, they are considered carefully both by professional planning staff and political decision makers, with consultation carried out with a range of interested parties and the public.

“Cromer continues to be a thriving town where people want to come and live and we will make sure that continues to be the case.

“Even now we are working towards a new local plan for the whole of North Norfolk which will guide us through to 2036.”

Controversy already surrounds two applications on the outskirts of Cromer, with rival landowners consulting over plans for 300-home developments.

Northrepps farmer Michael Gurney wants to build about 300 homes and football pitches on land near the Norwich Road.

But Novus Sustainable Developments - a group of three local landowners - has also put forward proposals for 300 homes, football pitches, a sports hub, a shop and care home on land off Roughton Road, dubbed New Cabbell Park.

Both proposals would provide a new home for Cromer Town Football Club - whose own Cabbell Park ground is being developed with a new medical centre.

And both developers say their schemes of about 300 homes would mean a large proportion of the homes which Cromer needs would be built on a single site.

But both sites are in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). On their websites promoting the two sites, each make their claims as to why their scheme should be the one to get the green light.

Those behind the Roughton Road scheme say a key problem with many of the sites is that they would create urban sprawl and worsen congestion.

They say: “New Cabbell Park offers the possibility to deliver Cromer’s housing needs for years to come without these issues, with good access to local schools and employment areas, while keeping the town’s separate identity by preventing Cromer sprawling and merging with nearby towns and villages.”

The Norwich Road Development website states: “Whichever site is used they are all in the AONB because the AONB covers most of the potential land around Cromer, including the competitive sites listed on the recent housing and economic land availability assessment.

“This site at least has the advantage of the houses being hidden by existing woods and will be difficult to see from any direction.”

Planning applications are due to be lodged, but the proposals have already attracted controversy, including over building in an area of outstanding natural beauty, traffic, the amount of affordable housing and the impact on schools.

Controversy “inevitable” over new housing

Cromer has a “very big challenge” when it comes to meeting housing need, according to the town’s former mayor and county councillor Tim Adams.

The Liberal Democrat, also a town councillor, said: “The problem is that we have got no space within the boundaries of Cromer.

“That inevitably causes controversy from surrounding villages, because when proposals come forward there is concern that Cromer is growing into their villages.

“But we do have a very big challenge when it comes to affordable housing for young people and, I think people often forget this, for older people too.

“There are people who live here for their whole lives and then want to downsize, but there’s not a great deal of availability for them to do so.”

But Mr Adams added the town’s roads were already struggling to cope with the volume of traffic using them, which created another challenge.

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