Council chiefs pledge to work with green groups to protect sensitive Gaywood site
West Norfolk Council chiefs will hold talks with environmental campaigners about the future protection of sensitive environmental habitats in Gaywood.
Senior figures insist they are now on “the same hymn sheet” as local green groups in relation to the Parkway site.
And a fresh report on a revised housing scheme for the area is set to be drawn up in the coming weeks.
The authority’s plans to build nearly 380 new homes, plus a road bridge linking the area to the Hardwick estate, were backed at a special planning meeting in April.
But, last month, the council announced it would pursue a smaller proposal, scrapping both the bridge and plans to build on the eastern side of the side, which critics of the original scheme argued had major ecological significance.
Speaking during public questions at Thursday’s borough council meeting, environmental activist Trudy Clark asked whether the authority would now seek to have the site listed as an urban county wildlife site.
She said the designation had been sought by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
And she argued it would “also promote the wellbeing of the local population who so love the area.”
In response, environment portfolio holder Paul Kunes said he had met Miss Clark with the council leader, Stuart Dark.
He said: “We’ve discussed the situation and we’ve reassured her that we will not be building on that area of land in the foreseeable future.
“We’ve agreed with Trudy that we can meet with her representatives and look at the future and indeed make it a county wildlife site. We are singing from the same hymn sheet on this.”
Miss Clark thanked both councillors for meeting her and “opening the door to the eco groups which I represent.
“We look forward to working together to find solutions to the pressing issues of our times.”
Later in the meeting, opposition members questioned the financial implications of the council’s decision to scale back the scheme.
Independent group leader Terry Parish said the council had already spent nearly £3.8 million on the project and there was a shortfall of more than £1.4 million between that and the central government grants awarded to it.
He went on: “I’ve been told £820,000 of that is unrecoverable.
“How is the shortfall going to be addressed, does a significant part of the taxpayer funded grant from Homes England have to be repaid, how is the residual loss going to be paid and who’s responsible?”
Development portfolio holder Richard Blunt said a new report on the scheme, including a financial appraisal, would be presented to the next cabinet meeting on August 3.
But he also indicated that planning permission needed to be secured in order to eliminate the risk of any funds having to be returned.
He said: “We do have to complete the ACP (Accelerated Construction Programme) process and that is why we’re now pushing forward this particular project.”