Campaigners in silent protest against Broadland planners

Around 60 supporters of a local campaign group turned their backs on Broadland District Council planning officers to protest over what they say is an unfair and unrealistic housing allocation for Reepham.
The 15-second silent protest organised by Realistic Reepham took place in Reepham Town Hall during a public exhibition held on Thursday 11 July by Broadland to provide information on its preferred sites for housing development in the town as part of its latest consultation on the Local Development Framework.

Realistic Reepham turns its back on Broadland District Council planning officers

The District Council’s planning department recently announced three sites as “preferred options” for development in Reepham, which could see around 160 new homes being built in and around the town up to 2026.
The sites selected are:

  • part of the Reepham 2 site to the south of Dereham Road (90 homes);
  • land to the east of Whitwell Road opposite the High School (50 homes); and
  • land at the former station yard on Station Road, where a mixed development of residential and employment would see around 20 new homes being built.

During the protest, Realistic Reepham founder and chairman Mark Bridges delivered to Broadland District Council interim spatial planning manager John Walchester the first batch of questionnaires collected by the group, which he said showed overwhelming support from residents for smaller-scale developments within the town boundary as opposed to large housing estates outside the existing settlement limit. “We do not recognise the targets Broadland have set for us,” he stated.
Speaking at an earlier public meeting in St Michael’s, Mr Bridges said Reepham had grown by 80 houses over the past 15 years. Moreover, 44 sites had been identified with outline planning permission for new homes, with the Abbs Garage site in School Road understood to be “close to a planning application”.
However, these would be additional to the town’s allocation of 100-200 new dwellings, which Realistic Reepham believes will put even more pressure on the town’s already over-stretched infrastructure.
“Reepham is the last market town in Norfolk that has not been enveloped by large-scale housing estates,” said Mr Bridges, who believes nearby Aylsham has been spoiled by excessive development in recent years.
Broadland District Council is now consulting on its “preferred options” in terms of sites for future development across the district.
The consultation will help the Council to produce a Site Allocations Development Plan Document, which will identify or “allocate” areas of land for specific types of development, such as housing, employment, community facilities, etc. It will also include the definition of development boundaries or settlement limits for those places where some further “infill” development may take place.
The public consultation closes at 5 pm on Monday 2 September 2013. To view or add comments, click HERE
See our earlier news stories:
Outline housing scheme proposed for Whitwell Road site
Broadland’s ‘Preferred Options’ summer consultation opens
Broadland announces preferred sites for development
I attended the Broadland District Council Consultation meeting on 11 July and can only say how disappointed I was at the lack of constructive comments received from both Broadland’s planners and the Realistic (UnRealistic?) Reepham pressure group.
I believe Reepham needs to accept that it cannot stand still nor remain stubbornly opposed to any developments in the mistaken belief that a problem will go away if we refuse to take part in a positive manner. It is far too easy to break down arguments/proposals rather than engage and propose positive and long-term plans for our community.
The stance taken under the guidance of Realistic Reepham’s spokesman was childish in its “publicity stunt” of literally turning its back on Broadland at the consultation meeting. Nothing comes of this type of action; it just makes positive communication more difficult. When I asked the spokesman for his ideas on what Reepham should be looking for in its future development, his answer was that brownfield sites within the town should be developed.
I cannot see where Realistic Reepham thinks the owners of these sites will park their cars other than the streets; not an ideal situation, nor do I think these infill developments add any “value” to the town. They put a stress on existing sewerage and generally add little to the architecture, general infrastructure or amen­ities within Reepham.
Broadland’s attempt at enlightening residents was also a disappointment. When challenged about the viability of sewerage from the Reepham 2 site, I was told that if it was OK with Anglian Water, then basically it was fine with planning. Albeit, a planning officer said that of course if a sewage treatment plant could not be managed to the west of this site then it would be pumped across Reepham to join the already burgeoning sewage system on the east side of town. I wonder what the resulting chaos to the road system and disruption to the town centre would be, let alone how sustainable this then makes the existing sewerage systems?
The Reepham 2 site also causes me great concern with regard to access to Dereham Road. A planning officer stated that he believed most residents of this proposed site would be commuting to Norwich. Surely this will put an enor­mous strain on the roads in the centre of town, creating a dangerous flow of traffic into Reepham’s market square.
If any new development site is agreed, one can presume there will be additional requirement for food shopping in Reepham. Where does Broadland or Realistic Ree­pham propose that such facilities should be made available locally or will families in search of reasonably priced food need to travel to Norwich? The pressure on the Spar is already clear to see – car parking, prices and choice are not ideal. And yet apparently Broadland has not given any thought to this in relation to possible housing developments. Where is the joined-up thinking?
Indeed, Reepham has yet another card shop opening in the centre of town and the police station occupies a prime retail site that surely could be put to better use as a food outlet offering real choice and employment to local people. I also wonder about the good sense of a shop selling sweets placed on a direct route to school – how thoughtful in helping our children to lead healthier lives.
We need the ideas and innovations that will enable Reepham to flourish over the next 25-50 years, let alone the next 5-10 years. Or will we all inevitably find ourselves driving through and out of Reepham to shop and work? We need to take pride in the development of towns and villages as the UK’s population continues to grow; some forethought and innovation, not just higgledy-piggledy stop-gap measures that “satisfy” our short-sighted and suffocating need to “keep things as they are” because it feels safe. Turning backs on discussions, even with those we might disagree with, is not helpful.
Personally, I can’t see that 40 or so houses scattered in brownfield sites throughout Reepham will encourage a constructive and innovative approach to town planning. But perhaps Realistic Reepham has some positive and innovative ideas or shall we just stick our heads in the sand?
Alison Hovesen, Salle
* * *
I take issue with Alison Hovesen’s view that Realistic Reepham’s protest at Broadland District Council’s consultation event on 11 July was a pointless and childish gesture, and her suggestion that our group is not interested in “positive communication”.
On the contrary; several of our members have gone to enormous lengths over the past 18 months in corresponding with BDC’s officers. We have tried to discuss many general and specific points about their proposed housing allocation with them over and over again, in a factual and respectful man­ner, but we get nowhere. It’s clear they wish to plough on, regardless of the feelings of the great majority of local people and in the face of infrastructural, transport and environmental problems that we all know about.
Before making the detailed comments in her letter it would have been better if Mrs Hovesen had declared her own involvement with the Reepham 1 (Cawston Road) development proposal. This might help explain her own criticisms both of Broadland’s planners (who did not nominate Reepham 1 as a “preferred site”) and of Realistic Ree­pham, who oppose estate-scale housing development on greenfield land around the town.
At presentations made during the spring and summer by the Reepham 1 and Reepham 2 landowners and promoters, we could see all too clearly their attempts at distracting attention from one of the key issues – road transport. If you believed Savills and Iceni Developments (Reepham 2), the B1145 Dereham Road provides Reepham’s “main vehicular link”. In the case of Reepham 1, the map at Salle Estate’s exhibition in May helpfully showed the “commuting route to Norwich via Cawston”. The elephant in the room here is the hazardous direct route to Norwich via Alderford, which everyone knows is the real main road link to the outside world.
At least the Reepham 1 architects had the grace to acknowledge the truth by the time they made their presentation to the Town Council. I expect dozens of Reepham people had explained to them by then that they hadn’t been fooled.
Realistic Reepham wishes to keep local people informed about a complex and constantly changing situation, and about competing sets of proposals that would affect the whole town. It’s no exaggeration to say that we fear a “perfect storm”.
First, we have the ridiculously ambitious housing targets imposed by Broadland in the context of the Joint Core Strategy for the Greater Norwich area. These targets are driven by political and financial considerations rather than by any balanced appraisal of the needs of individual settlements and localities.
This flawed process then provides opportunities for local landowners to make huge sums of money by selling agricultural land around the edge of town for development. We want to make sure Reepham people have a voice as this situation continues to develop.
Trevor Ashwin, Realistic Reepham
If you have any more views, please contact us

Realistic Reepham founder and chairman Mark Bridges (centre) with some of the campaign group’s supporters outside Reepham Town Hall following their 15-second silent protest against Broadland District Council

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