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New-home building in West Norfolk falls short, new data reveals

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House-building rates in West Norfolk have slowed dramatically and not enough homes are currently being built to meet local need, according to data released today.

Although Government targets for new homes in the borough have been exceeded, the past 15 years, the current rate of development is still well below levels seen before the financial crash 10 years ago.

Construction site building a new brick home (3580693)
Construction site building a new brick home (3580693)

The data is likely to intensify the debate begun after a West Norfolk MP was criticised comments about so-called “nimbyism”.

The study, which compares hundreds of local authority areas across the UK, showed that 130 per cent of the total Government-assessed homes need in the borough had been developed over the period between 2001-2 and 2016-17.

But, compared with a peak of 1,538 homes developed in 2007-8, just before the financial crisis, only 395 were built during 2016-17 and just 285 were built in the lowest year, 2014-15.

The figures, which were compiled by the BBC’s Shared Data unit, have led to renewed calls for more to be done to tackle what some analysts say is now a major crisis.

Last week, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss called for “a lot more” land to be made available for housing development.

But Jonathan Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk, argued the need for new housing should not come at the expense of losing greater portions of the green belt.

He said: “We do recognise there will always be a need for housing.

“However we feel that, rather than opening up green field sites we want to see homes built on existing allocated sites.

“It is so important in an area like Norfolk we ensure developments are in keeping with our local surroundings.”

Around 14 per cent of the borough’s development in the study period was on green belt land.

And James Prestwich, of the National Housing Federation, says the time has now come for a full debate on the future of the green belt.

He said: “Brownfield is part of the solution - but we know that there is only enough brownfield land to meet housing demand for the next five years, so there does need to be a more fundamental question about what comes next.

“The greenbelt is a very contentious issue, but I think there is scope for government to have a debate about reform of the green belt. I’m absolutely not talking about concreting over vast swathes of the English countryside, but maybe a more sensible approach and proposals around green belt swaps where you build on an area of greenbelt but you then substitute it for another piece of greenbelt land elsewhere.

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