Vision: Our Wymondham - Comments on the site specific policies consultation
Wymondham is a historic market town with a history that dates back to the Domesday Book.
In order to ensure that these features are retained in future, it is essential that the development of the town is carefully planned. We therefore submit our vision for the future development of Wymondham.
Wymondham has grown rapidly in the last 10 years with the developments of Hart’s Farm and Whispering Oaks. As such Wymondham has taken more than its fair share of new housing within Norfolk over this period.
We agree that the town should continue to take a fair share of new housing over the next 10-15 years, but are very concerned that outside developers have plans to grow Wymondham at a much faster rate than at any time in history. We believe that speculative plans for 3,000 and even 6,000 new homes by 2026 would detrimentally affect the character of the town and make the quality of life poorer for all Wymondham residents.
A figure of a minimum of 2,200 houses has been mentioned in the past. We strongly believe that this should be at or near the maximum figure as we cannot see how a town the size of Wymondham can retain it’s special character if it increased in size by 50% or more in the next 16 years.
The pace of development should be gradual, in order for local services to have a chance to keep up with the rate of building new housing. We should see the effect of a new development before granting planning permission in the same area. The fact that we are now planning for the next 16 years means that we must take a long term view when assessing proposals in order that the council can get the best deal for the residents of Wymondham.
The current consultation exercise indicates just how many land owners in and around Wymondham wish to develop their land. This offers the council a unique opportunity to encourage these land owners and developers to compete against each other in order that any developments that do happen over the next 16 years are supported by good infrastructure improvements to the Town.
We are alarmed that only one year in to the 16 year programme, developers have indicated that they would like to get planning permission for some 1,700 houses (400 in North Wymondham and 1,300 in South Wymondham). If these are all granted in the first two years of the programme it seems extremely unlikely that the growth of Wymondham would be limited to 2,200 throughout the entire 16 years. The impression given is that these developers are all trying to jump the gun to avoid going through the current consultation process.
This consultation process has highlighted just how many areas could be developed in and around Wymondham. In an ideal world it would be good for all land owners to propose their schemes over the next few years and then residents and the council take a long hard look at which provide the best value for Wymondham. It is also an opportunity to persuade developers to meet standards, such as low carbon and sustainability, above the minimum they are aiming for at the moment. Whilst we understand that there is currently some demand for affordable housing, we cannot see the immediate need for developments of the size that have been proposed in the last year.
We feel that the current speculative development proposals are not helpful whilst the Council is expending considerable funds to carry out the Site Specific Policies Consultation. Any temporary delay in house building whilst this is being carried out will pay enormous dividends over the long term, if a plan can be formulated to build houses on a scale, at a rate, and in locations that are broadly welcomed by the residents of the town.
Development over the last 10 years has been predominantly in the north eastern quarter of the town. As a result, development is taking place an increasingly long distance from the town centre. We would like to see more balanced growth in future with all parts of Wymondham taking an equal share of any new housing.
Balanced development in and around the town would mean that housing developments will be smaller. We hope that new planning regulations will make small developments as attractive to the local council as large ones. Smaller developments will ensure that no single group of residents will have their lives blighted by an enormous housing estate. Similarly the road network will cope better if the new housing is fairly shared around Wymondham. Most importantly we believe that smaller developments will encourage new residents to integrate more fully and support the local economy.
In terms of quality of land we believe that development should take place in the following order:
We believe that, where possible, developments should be located within easy walking distance of the town centre. This will encourage new residents to walk and cycle into the town centre and ensure that local businesses will gain the full benefit from the new housing. It will also help to minimise the extra number of car journeys resulting from the new housing.
Developments that are speculatively located in order that they can set a precedent for building in a particular area allowing future developments to ‘backfill’ towards Wymondham should be vigorously opposed by the council. Similarly we believe that the council should vigorously defend the green boundaries that ensure that Wymondham remains a separate market town in its own right.
Most importantly we believe that developments should be of a scale where the residents are encouraged to integrate into the social life of the town. Developments should not be of a size and location which encourages residents to work and shop solely in Norwich.
We have calculated the density of housing within much of Wymondham to be approximately 17 houses per hectare and we believe this density, combined with the many green spaces, helps to contribute to the social and recreational wellbeing of residents. In effect this is part of what makes Wymondham such a nice place to live in.
Modern housing estates are typically double this density or even greater. Whilst we understand that a proportion of new housing may have to be of a high density in order to bring affordable housing to Wymondham, it is important that the numbers of these houses are not so great that they destroy the character of the town. It is also important that areas of high density housing are not all located in one area, i.e. the proposed housing estate of 3,000 houses, as this will just turn large parts of the town into a concrete jungle.
Developers often use the argument of not concreting over large parts of land as the reason for building to higher and higher densities, but we believe that the main driver for higher housing densities is that it is possible to make larger profits by squeezing more houses into a plot of land.
Developments should take account of the views of local residents and should be planned to have minimal impact on the existing residents. This includes:
Public consultations should take place within a timescale of at least 6 months and possibly longer, to ensure that local views can contribute to the planning process. Once a development has been built, it is very difficult to correct any mistakes that become evident, so it is much better to ensure that these are picked up at the planning stage rather than leaving the residents with a long term problem.
Public consultations should be organised by the local council, as many residents are wary of replying directly to the developers.
Wymondham is recognised as having good transport links, primarily through the close proximity to Norwich which can be accessed via the A11 dual carriageway and the mainline railway station. In the town itself the predominant growth of Wymondham in a north and easterly direction from the market cross has significantly increased the traffic levels in the north of the town. The building of Hart’s Farm and Whispering Oaks have increased traffic levels such that there are daily traffic queues around the Waitrose and Police station roundabouts. This congestion will increase further with the completion of Whispering Oaks and the building of the two developments off Norwich Common and Tuttles Lane that already have outline planning permission.
We are therefore concerned that should permission be granted for further housing in the north of the town, we will reach a tipping point where we have gridlock at regular times during the day. The impact on response times for the Police Station in Wymondham and Fire Station in Hethersett is likely to be detrimental and the roads are likely to become significantly more hazardous for cyclists and pedestrians.
The location of houses in the north of Wymondham is also too far away from the train station to encourage new residents to travel by rail. Instead developers are suggesting that environmentally friendly travel could be provided by fast bus links. We do not think this would be borne out in practice as we do not believe that the high housing densities and high levels of on street parking of new developments are conducive to fast bus links.
Along with the proposals for dramatically increasing the size of Wymondham in terms of housing, developers have also indicated that they would like to greatly expand the commercial estate area on the north eastern edge of the town. Whilst we are supportive of moves to bring new jobs to Wymondham, we question the wisdom of concentrating a large proportion of the commercial growth of the town in this one area.
We have already highlighted the traffic issues in this area, and question whether the road network could cope with a significant increase in traffic. The planned growth would also continue to make Wymondham more and more ‘top heavy’, and the jobs generated could just as easily go to commuters travelling from Norwich and further afield, with all the associated traffic and pollution issues. Furthermore we do not feel that this would help regenerate businesses located in the centre and south of the town. We think that commercial developments should go hand in hand with new housing in being equally shared around all sides of the town.
Many residents of Wymondham feel lucky due to the rich architectural, cultural and natural landscape of the town. Much of this is due to the fact that Wymondham is a separate town with an individual identity. We believe that the council should strongly oppose those developments which could result in Wymondham becoming absorbed as a part of greater Norwich over time. The eventual result would be Wymondham becoming a nondescript suburb of Norwich rather than a market town in its own right.
Similarly one of the features that makes Wymondham so appreciated by residents is its proximity to the countryside and local wildlife. Many residents we have spoken to love the fact that within ten minutes walk most residents can be walking within green fields. The meadows surrounding the Abbey, the Lizard, and the green boundary north of the town to name but three, are all areas that add enormously to the wellbeing of Wymondham residents. We hope that the Council will vigorously help protect these areas from developers
We support the Council’s efforts to exercise a greater degree of joined up planning on the future of South Norfolk as a whole and Wymondham in particular. We strongly support the public consultation as we feel it is vital that local views are taken into consideration.
We hope our comments will be seen as constructive, as we are not against development in principle but we would like to ensure that the special character of Wymondham is retained for future generations. Wymondham is a special town, please help us to keep it that way.
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