Green levy idea will boost West Norfolk housing plans, says planning boss

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Council planning officials have admitted they are unsure if a proposed green levy on new housing in West Norfolk will be set at the right level.

The charge is one of a series of measures drawn up in response to concerns about the authority’s plans for housing development across the borough over the next decade.

But, during a committee meeting this week, officers insisted they were confident their plans will allow the authority’s development framework to be approved.

The £50 levy, which will be charged on every new home built in West Norfolk if approved, has been proposed after concerns were raised over the environmental impact of the council’s planned allocation of around 6.500 new homes in the area.

During a joint meeting of the council’s regeneration and development and environment and community panels on Wednesday, planning manager Geoff Hall admitted: “To a certain extent, £50 is a stab in the air.

“It’s very difficult to know how many people from the developments will use these areas, what harm they would cause and how you mitigate against that impact so it’s extremely difficult to come up with a figure.

“We took the view that probably the best thing was to have a mechanism with a figure that wasn’t punitive to developers but would raise a relatively significant sum to spend in these areas.

“The important thing is to have a process and a figure than can be adjusted going forward.”

Mr Hall also rejected suggestions that the council ought to anticipated the concerns raised by organisations including the RSPB on the opening day of the public inquiry into the council’s development proposals in early July.

He said: “We’d been led to believe we had their agreement. The inspector said he went into that inquiry not expecting a peoblem. Effectively, they changed their position

“You might say why didn’t we expect that change, but why should we?

“If we were led to believe these people supported us, then we were entitled to proceed on that basis.”

He added: “We’re confident we’ll be able to see it through to adoption but it’s quite possible new issues will come up and we’ll have to respond to those.”

Committee members gave their backing to the proposed reforms, which also included a move to reinstate an area of land at West Winch in the development framework.

The programme is now set to go before the authority’s cabinet when it meets next Wednesday, September 9.