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Concerns raised regarding plans for 32 homes near Downham Market’s Willows Nature Reserve

Locals fear that wildlife living in a nature reserve in a town is under threat from nearby developments.

A bid to build 32 homes close to the Willows Nature Reserve in Downham has been met with nearly 40 objections who worry it could have a “huge and devastating” effect on the environment.

Enforcement action has also been taken against a business next door after it was found to be operating without planning permission for its workshop business.

Downham's community nature reserve The Willows. Picture: Downham Market Town Council
Downham's community nature reserve The Willows. Picture: Downham Market Town Council

Willows Nature Reserve is known as a “hidden gem” tucked between an industrial estate and derelict land. It comprises wetland areas and green space.

Developers want to build a mixture of flats and terraced and detached houses on land south of Railway Road right next to the wildlife haven.

Downham Town Council and Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) have voiced their opposition to the scheme arguing it is being built in the wrong place and could damage nesting and feeding areas for birds and bats.

Mike Jones, planning and advocacy manager for NWT, said: “Willows Nature Reserve is an area of recognised wildlife importance and we have objected to the initial application as it wasn’t clear how they proposed to protect the Willows.”

Locals also worry the roads and health services are already struggling with demand and high traffic levels.

But developers say it will be sustainably built and will include open space and a play area as part of the site to help “reinforce the rural nature of Downham”.

West Norfolk Council is also taking enforcement action against a business operating from its site in Brickfields Lane as it does not have the required planning permission for the vehicle repair work it is currently doing.

Residents fear this could also have affected wildlife living in the nature reserve.

The application for the 32-home development will be considered by West Norfolk Council in the coming months.

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