Buttercross, January 9, 2015: Swaffham’s future housing plans need good infrastructure too

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There are many of us that care for our countryside and wonder just how much more of it is to be concretedover.

There is no doubt that we have a considerable housing shortfall and it has to be addressed. Town plans which map out how it is proposed we address this need, and other needs, and stretching into the future, are set before us all to inspect, discuss and give our opinions on.

Additionally it has been recognised that there is an enormous quantity of existing unoccupied accommodation already, with some near 250,000 properties left unoccupied for more than six months. More pressure is then put onto the need to provide new homes.

It is now likely that the liability for paying council tax on such unoccupied property will shortly be revised substantially upwards. This should improve the situation somewhat, but the problem of where to construct new homes still has to be solved.

With these new estates, and that is what they will be, comes the need for new infrastructure and, equally importantly, new employment opportunities.

The mayor of Dereham recently spoke out strongly about the perceived lack of future Breckland Council funding earmarked for his town, with the new so called “A11 Corridor” to the South of the District now likely to receive a far bigger share.

This comment comes from the mayor of a town which, not many years ago, was not that much bigger than Swaffham. How times have changed.

It was interesting to hear it stated recently when the last and final section of the A11 was duelled that our town would also benefit from this greatly improved road.

As we are some 25 miles up the ever winding A1065, having turned left off the A11 at Barton Mills, it is difficult to understand where this rationale comes from. Perhaps we were being confused with Thetford, that town being right in this “corridor.”

Concerning the sensible use of future development funding, we can only hope and trust that the planners show real foresight. My brother tells me that in his part of Worcestershire some ten or so years ago new roads were constructed in his locality to ease traffic congestion.

Professional advice was given at the time that these roads needed to be dualled given the further expected increase in traffic. This advice was ignored and now, lo and behold, dualling is now to be undertaken.

Public money poorly spent where a little, and not unreasonable, foresight would have got the job done at a substantially lower cost.

Whilst we are on this subject, and much nearer to home, any development plan for the future of our town needs to be properly and fairly funded, and should consider the necessary infrastructure, including an adequate road network, not just for when it is built, but which also addresses likely future requirements.

With Dereham now complaining of lack of funding, where on Earth does that put Swaffham?