New North Walsham plan 'begs questions'
FAR-reaching plans for North Walsham gloss over major problems including a lack of jobs, the struggling shopping centre and poor road system, according to town chiefs.
By ALEX HURRELL
THE far-reaching plans for North Walsham gloss over major problems including a lack of jobs, the struggling shopping centre and poor road system, according to town chiefs.
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They claim the development scheme, which could see more than 500 homes built on newly-identified sites in the town over the next 17 years, fails to tackle crunch questions.
The proposals aim to satisfy the expanding town's need for homes, services and work, with a number of sites also earmarked for new shops and nearly 136 acres allocated for employment use.
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But Mike Jones, project co-ordinator of the Griffon Area Partnership, said North Walsham was "severely constricted" by its two low railway bridges and B-road link to Norwich via the narrow River Bure crossing in Coltishall.
"All these new projects are fine and dandy but we've got to have the transport infrastructure to back them up or employers won't come here," said Mr Jones.
"We need a link from the Norwich Road to the A149 so that lorries can avoid the railway bridges but there is no money for it. The district council's priority seems to be building homes - but are there any facilities for the people who will move here?"
His views were echoed by chamber of trade chairman Colin Page who was also concerned at plans to provide up to 400 homes, employment land and other facilities on a 49-acre site which would include the former HL Foods factory on Norwich Road.
That development, coupled with the expected relocation of Paston College to land off nearby Station Road, would place a huge traffic burden on the town, he said.
Mr Page is also baffled by proposals for more shops in a redeveloped Vicarage Street car park and on part of The Lawns, presently occupied by Paston College.
"They should concentrate on getting a good mix of shops in the centre - we've got a number of empty units here that we can't seem to fill so what's the point in building more?"
North Walsham Mayor Brian Wexler welcomed the LDF's vision in trying to link the town centre and Sainsbury's through plans for homes and shops on the under-used Vicarage Street car park.
But he said the car park was often full on market day. The town's vitality relied heavily on that day's trade and he feared customers might head elsewhere if they could not find handy parking spaces.
Mr Wexler was "very surprised" that the LDF proposals did not include Paston College's Griffons site, where Trafalgar hero Lord Nelson had once studied.
"This is an important, historic site, bang in the middle of north Norfolk's biggest town - and they don't give it a mention," he said.
A six-week public consultation period on the plan is due to begin in June.