West Winch plans for 4,000 new homes next to A10 and A47 leaves councillors concerned
Plans to build up to 4,000 new homes in West Winch have sparked concern among local councillors who worry that the new development could lack vital infrastructure.
Officials at West Norfolk Council insisted the scheme had been carefully master-planned, and that they had been working to ensure facilities like open spaces, a community centre, a school and a health centre are all provided.
But a number of councillors said they were worried about whether or how the infrastructure will materialise.
Fresh details on the development, which was first raised as a potential housing site back in 2011, were presented to councillors at a meeting of the borough’s member major projects board on Tuesday.
Expected to be between 3,500 and 4,000 homes, it will be by far the largest housing development in the borough until at least 2036, comprising an area of about 470 acres.
The proposed land, which lies between the A10 and A47 roads, is currently in the hands of some 21 mainly private landowners, increasing the scheme’s complexity.
The housing would not come all at once, but would instead gain planning permission and be built out in smaller packages, by a variety of developers.
In all, it will effectively comprise an entirely new settlement roughly the size of Fakenham or Swaffham, council officers explained.
Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp responded: “What you see in those towns is incremental building and a town square – you see a town clock, you see the infrastructure that’s needed for a community, a library, a museum, a pharmacy, a surgery, a market cross, a travel hub.
“I’ve looked carefully, I may have missed something but I’ve not seen this in any of these plans.
“This is really developer-driven. I don’t see this as the masterplan we need in its readiness to be consulted on.”
She claimed the scheme would be “the biggest development this borough has ever seen”, and stressed the importance of “thinking very carefully” about it.
She added: “I’m bitterly disappointed to see what looks to be a plan for just sprawling houses, and I can only think, is this going to be a dormitory town?
“How many of these people will be commuting to Cambridge or to Ely? We don’t know where the jobs are going to be.”
Her fears were echoed by Green councillor Michael de Whalley who said he was worried about rising inflation and changes to building regulations affecting the project – and whether enough thought had been given to the government’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
On the future residents’ ability to commute to work, he said: “We have the rail station at Watlington, we have the station at King’s Lynn, [but] I can’t see a direct cycle route to either railway station.
“We will need to think about improvements to vehicle access for these railway stations. Do we really want people commuting to Ely or Cambridge by rail, deciding that they should first come into King’s Lynn?”
And Terry Parish, who leads the council’s independent opposition, said: “The nature of such masterplans from private developers is ‘this is what we want to do, can you give us comments’.
“And then the comments come in and are quietly shuffled to one side because the developer wants to do what they want to do.
“So I hope with this consultation… a better position will be taken.”
On the proposed health centre, he asked: “People will ask about what exactly is going to be in this health centre. Is it a doctors’ [surgery], is it a drop-in centre?”
He added that dental provision was limited in west Norfolk and that pharmacies were closing “at the drop of a hat”, before asking what negotiation is being done with the health authorities about what the proposed centre will provide.
A council officer said negotiations would be ongoing as the project progresses – and all other councillors’ comments were noted.
Hopkins Homes has applied for planning permission to contribute up to 1,100 of the homes, but only 300 would be permitted to be built until a new access road is built, the council said.
A consultation on the proposed road will be held later this year, with a planning application for it to be submitted in spring 2023.
The road will cost some £65m, and the council is asking the government to pay £50.8m of that sum, with the developers required to pay the rest.