When one lives in an area as pleasant and pretty as West Norfolk, the very mention of the word development can evoke emotions ranging from guarded optimism to an attack of the jitters.
So I can well understand the fears expressed by many residents of Heacham towards plans submitted by Broadland Housing and other developers to build on land to the south of the village, next to the A149.
Certainly, when I looked at the developers’ master plan on the internet, it seemed a little coy on details of actual numbers of houses, referring to “mews court” developments, each comprising of 25 houses. I would have found it a bit more informative to say how many mews courts and how many houses. I can understand facts and figures.
One of the biggest worries for some Heacham residents is that any more development could significantly alter the character of their village, making it more like a small town, and this is a very valid point.
Throughout all the coastal villages, from Dersingham all the way up to the resort of Hunstanton, there has been relentless expansion for several decades now. If you travel from Dersingham, through Ingoldisthorpe and into Snettisham, you would be pushed (unless you were a local) to know where one village ends and the next begins.
The new development to the south of Heacham would fill in more land between that village and Snettisham, and when you see this happening, you do begin to wonder where it will all end.
Given the narrow gap of countryside left between Heacham and Hunstanton, it is easy to envisage a situation developing over the next 30 or 40 years where you end up with one long urban sprawl all the way from Dersingham to Hunstanton,
It’s not an easy one for the planners to solve. They need to find places in West Norfolk to build more homes for a growing population, and wherever they look they are hardly likely to get a warm welcome.
They should, however, be mindful of the prettiest areas of coast and country that are a magnet for visitors and one of our most precious assets. Covering them over in concrete and creating what would be little more than giant housing estates could do irreparable damage to West Norfolk’s image.
The problem is not just confined to the coastal area. The Woottons, where I live, has been mercilessly in-filled with housing over the past 30 years, despite the valiant rearguard action fought by the two local parish councils to retain their individual identities.
It is just as well that Wootton Park is situated in between the parishes, helping to retain some sense of two separate villages.
The Sandy Lane area of South Wootton now blurs into Wootton Ride, which in turn rolls into Templemead, then Reffley, and Gaywood. And it doesn’t end there. Proposals in the pipeline are likely to take the housing on the eastern fringe of Sandy Lane right up to the A149 bypass.
Perhaps my fears of housing all the way down the A149 from Dersingham to Hunstanton are a bit on the modest side. What’s to stop it all the way down the A149 from Lynn to Hunstanton?
Now that’s a thought to bring a gleam to the eye of a developer. So let’s keep alert...