Plan for HL Foods site raises worries

HEAVIER traffic in an HGV blackspot and potential danger from a nearby gas terminal are among concerns raised over altered plans for a major derelict site in North Walsham.

HEAVIER traffic in an HGV blackspot and potential danger from a nearby gas terminal are among concerns raised over altered plans for a major derelict site in North Walsham.

Fewer homes, more employment units, a 2,000 sq ft convenience store and a 60-bed care home are now proposed for the former HL Foods canning factory, off Norwich Road.

The project to redevelop the

12-acre brownfield site was announced last September when a public consultation event was held in the town's community centre.

In recent weeks, the joint Hopkins Homes and Bidwells scheme has been changed slightly, with the number of homes reduced from 163 to 149 and employment units increased from six to 10.

Developers now claim the site could create 161 full-time or equivalent jobs - more than 70 extra than were lost when the factory shut in 2002.

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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said his biggest concern was the impact of increased traffic.

“I've argued for many years that North Walsham needs a link road to take HGVs away from Millfield Road and Station Road,” he said.

“Residents in that part of town justifiably feel that their lives are very significantly affected by traffic and I'm not sure it's fair on those communities to make the situation much worse without addressing the problem.”

Paston College's anticipated move to a site near the Victory pool would generate even more vehicles in the area and Mr

Lamb called on the county

council to require Hopkins

Homes and Bidwells to

contribute to a solution.

North Walsham Town Council had reservations about the neighbouring BPA gas condensate terminal, according to new mayor Brian Wexler. He said: “It contains highly-inflammable liquid. I have never understood why it was built so near the town. It should have been sited further up the rail line.”

Councillors had also queried whether the town's infrastructure, including its electricity and sewage systems, could cope.

Colin Page, chairman of North Walsham Chamber of Trade, said the revised plans showed that some effort had been made to create a better balance between the number of homes and jobs.

He said: “People living there have got to work somewhere. The town's economy is not going to grow otherwise. It's a shame a major employer couldn't come in and take on the site as it's so close to the railway line, but this doesn't seem like a bad proposal to me.”

The town was going through a bad patch with seven empty shops in the centre area alone, said Mr Page. Residents moving on to the development would be likely to spend money in the town, boosting the local economy.

The developers say the scheme would be economically unviable if they increased the number of affordable homes from 30pc to 40pc of the total, as requested by North Norfolk District Council.

Other changes include an increase in the number of parking spaces for rail users from 12 to 20 and the developers are willing to create pedestrian and cycle access to the station if the idea is supported by rail chiefs.

It is hoped planning officers could make a firm recommendation for or against the outline plans to eastern area planning committee members on June 30.

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