Lord Leicester has said that he is not prepared to “preserve our little part of north Norfolk in aspic” as he made a plea for new housing in the area.
The owner of the 25,000-acre Holkham estate said that north Norfolk is currently lucky to be “flavour of the month” when it comes to tourism, having overtaken the Broads as the most popular Norfolk destination and in the last five years “amazingly overtaken both Cornwall and Devon for tourism spend”.
But the national pressure for new homes is relentless, he said i an article in the Holkham Gazette, which is distributed free to tenants on the estate.
“As a major landlowner in the are we are in a strong position to help find the solution to these problems,” he said.
“I am afraid I am not prepared, indeed unable, to preserve our little part of north Norfolk in aspic. Change is with us all the time, it must be sensitvely embraced, channelled and managed to ensure it does not spoil the character of an exisiting place.
“You could probably taken any village in Norfolk and employ an architectural historian who would doubless tell you there has been development of some sort at least every 50 years for the past 500 years, so to hope for no further development now in the 21st century, is simply unrealistic and potentially socially damaging.”
Development must be of the highest quality, enhancing rather than detracting from its location, he said.
He said: “The Holkham Estate owns 290 houses. Seven of them, such as the Triumphal Arch, are impracticable to live in and are used as holiday accommodation.
“All the others are leased to local people, key workers or people who have chosen to make Norfolk their home 365 days a year.”
Many of the homes on the estate are 18th and 19th century, but patterns of work meant hardly any of these were needed for agricultural workers.
“The machinery involved in agriculture ahs increased in size and capacity to such an extent that many of our wonderful old barns can no longer be used for their intended purpose. With no use comes neglect, so alternative uses must be found to breathe new life into them.
“Thus far we have converted some barns into homes, offices and workshops.”
An average of £50,000 was spent on refurbishing homes on the estate. Sixteen homes had been sold off as ‘old stock’ in the past 20 years, as second homers moved into the area but 12 new homes had been built and retained