Letter: ‘We need to think about our town’s future’

North Walsham Market Place. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

North Walsham Market Place. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Your correspondent Elaine Addison (Letters, North Norfolk News, January 31) has clearly not fully analysed the proposals in the draft Local Area Plan as they impact on North Walsham. Simply opposing things does not enable progress or sound, appropriate change.

Within their centrally dictated brief the planners have actually done a pretty good job.

The real problem is that as with Ms Addison's thinking and that of her party the proposals are based in past thinking when we need to look at the future that we, the people who live and work here want and need for our town.

That the town needs to grow is beyond dispute – there will continue to be a need for affordable and social housing that must be met, especially if young people are not to be forced from the area.

Development on the western side of the town is the only realistic solution though whether we should also build for incomers and commuters is another matter.

The data says we should but is this really a priority for anyone other than the developers, who profit from the larger houses these people can afford.

While developers prefer high density estates a garden suburb approach could ameliorate some environmental concerns while requiring developers to provide sewerage and similar infrastructure prevents unnecessary costs to the local taxpayer.

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However, any development must be predicated on the prior construction of a western relief road from Norwich Road to Cromer Road and across the railway line into the industrial estate.

This is the only way of removing heavy traffic from narrow and congested streets. We need to see some realistic costs for this road and insist that its provision is an integral part of the consultation version of the plan.

What is clearly missing is any sort of coherent economic strategy, a problem for many market towns.

Glib statements from planners that only 40pc of the population will be in employment due to the high number of seniors ignores the need to provide for the industries of tomorrow – small scale tech, design, software engineering etc that will provide the jobs in the future.

We cannot continue to rely overly on tourism, light engineering and basic services. Land must be set aside for a modern business park.

Similarly, rather than accept decline of the town centre (not helped by greedy landlords demanding unrealistic rents) we need a frank debate on how it can change to meet societal expectations now and in the future.

Pedestrianisation of the Market Place and more free parking would be a good start together with provision for young adults.

As to services Ms Addison should be aware that there is a national shortage of doctors and dentists, not helped by the destructive austerity policies of the current government and likely to become worse should medical staff from the EU27 leave Britain.

There is little point demanding more medical centres if they cannot be staffed.

Before and during the formal consultation period on the Local Area Plan need a robust local debate on where our town should go involving politicians of all parties, community groups and ordinary people.

Then we can put forward sensible and realistic comments on the final proposals. The Liberal Democrats, now in control of NNDC have shown that cooperation and working together is the best way forward rather than the partisan approach of other parties.


Thirlby Road

North Walsham

-What do you think? To share your views on this issue and others, email nnn.letters@archant.co.uk