Letters: Alistair Beales, March 24, 2015

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There have been a number of letters and articles in the local press of late regarding the proposed development at Lynnsport/Marsh Lane.

A somewhat misleading picture was painted of the Marsh Lane site as “an orchard with apple and pear trees which residents picked and children played”.

The reality is that much of the site was never an orchard and in recent years by far the largest part of the site was hawthorn scrub providing low value habitat for wildlife and strewn with rubbish and detritus (some of it seriously unpleasant) from one end of the 12 acres to the other.

The apple trees themselves have been hacked with axes and damaged and the whole orchard area was covered in rotten fruit in autumn 2014 with little sign of any picking. It has also been said that the site was not run down until the council became involved and yet, as I have pointed out in response to public questions, the council has owned the site since 1974 and will preserve the apple trees to form a large open green space in any forthcoming development, subject to planning.

It is also wholly incorrect to say that three rounds of consultations and open events did not show the full extent of the proposed new road at Lynnsport – plans showed exactly that and I have held up those plans at Council meetings to remove any uncertainty about what was displayed and when. I also have to take issue with the so called Artful Codger who unlike local councillors is wholly unaccountable for what he chooses to write, however misinformed. Firstly, the Codger seems wholly unaware that the Local Development Framework currently in progress does indeed look at development in all of West Norfolk and if approved, many smaller places will be having few extra houses bringing families to local schools – exactly as he wails should be happening.

As for the “hideous sprawls” he describes that “will be happening in Marsh Lane area” he could not be more wrong. The very reason the council seeks to develop a further part of this large land area as it has been doing since the 1960s is to provide relatively low density, high quality housing for local people as well as new infrastructure like the new road, new sporting facilities such as the new tennis courts and hockey pitches, new community facility at the Dutton pavilion, new and extra parking for Lynnsport, new management for what will become a nature area with better access for the public, new cycle and footpaths and long term protection for the River Lane pitches.

As for the “manner in which the borough has brushed aside protests” Mr May appears blind to the many meetings I have attended and answered questions as fully and openly as possible and the extensive consultation which lead to the withdrawal of 153 homes previously planned for the River Lane/Beulah Street pitches (which were to be relocated).

As for criticism of debate at council, as some have acknowledged I answered many public questions courteously and in detail as is only right and proper.

Yes I spoke in favour and rebutted some misinformed criticism – as the proposer and spokesman for this proposal I am very familiar with the detail and well placed to comment. What should be noted is that at many preceding council meetings, this proposal had received cross party backing. Indeed nationally all major political parties recognise the need to build more houses, Ed Miliband, for example, has promised to double the rate of housebuilding and indeed has attacked “stick in the mud councils” that block development.

Let’s not forget at a time when fewer houses are being built than in almost any year since the Second World War (425,000 were built in the UK in 1968 with just 138,000 in 2013), when Shelter the housing charity says that due to “sky high” housing costs people are putting their lives on hold and delaying having families, when house prices mean only youngsters who can turn to the Bank of Mum and Dad for help can afford a home, it is beholden upon local councillors to face the difficult decisions that come with the building of much needed houses. Otherwise just who will able to afford a house and just where will our children live?

Alistair Beales,

West Norfolk councillor for Gayton