Schools cash 'would make Parkway planning scheme unviable', West Norfolk Council report says
Financial contributions to school and library provision would make plans for more than 200 new homes in Gaywood "unviable" if they were implemented, a new report says.
A decision on the proposed development off Parkway is set to be made next month, after dozens of residents took part in a protest against the scheme at the weekend.
A report published this afternoon has revealed West Norfolk councillors are being advised to approve the scheme, subject to legal agreements being completed, within four months of the committee's meeting on March 7.
The recommended agreements would cover issues including the provision of affordable housing and open space, as well as transport.
But, while Norfolk County Council officials have estimated further financial contributions of more than £940,000 would be needed for extra school places and library provision, they are not proposed for inclusion in the agreements.
The cash would be used to fund more than 60 additional school places, mostly at junior and secondary levels, with three sixth form slots.
The report says the borough council, which is the applicant, has submitted a viability assessment of the financial contributions being sought. In total, they are worth around £1.1 million.
But the borough argues the development "cannot afford" that total because it would reduce the profit margin of the scheme below required levels.
The report goes on: "The education and library contributions will not therefore be included within the S106 [agreement] because they would render the site wholly unviable."
On top of that, Sport England, which objects to the plan, is calling for a £300,000 contribution towards improved sports facilities because of the loss of land which once served as playing fields.
However, the council has dismissed that request as "unreasonable" and claims the body would only have to be consulted if the area had been used for sport within the last five years.
They also claim the playing fields have not been used for far longer.
A decision on the application had initially been expected at a special planning meeting today, only for the matter to be delayed as officials said the reports to committee members had not been completed.
Opponents of the proposal – hundreds of whom have already signed a petition against it – fear it will make existing traffic problems in the area worse and expose residents to the risk of flooding.
But Norfolk County Council's Highways department has raised no objection, while the Environment Agency has dropped its previous opposition, subject to the council confirming any flooding of the site would be "unavoidable and justifiable".
And planning officers have insisted the scheme for 226 homes will be safe if it gets the go-ahead.
Their report concluded: "Overall, the scheme is considered to provide a high quality development, that is well served by and improves existing sustainable connections to the town and wider suburb of Gaywood.
"The design draws reference from other recent developments within the town and has its own individual character with identifiable character areas."