Fears home-building halt could delay huge Fakenham expansion

A plan of how the new Fakenham development could look.

The Fakenham Urban Expansion, which is set to begin work this autumn could be affected by nutrient neutrality - Credit: NNDC/Planning documents

The biggest development in Fakenham for a generation could be impacted by a temporary ban on building new homes, it has been warned. 

The Fakenham Urban Expansion, which was set to begin this autumn, could be affected by the 'nutrient neutrality' directive imposed by Natural England.

Blue Green Algae on the Broads in Norfolk

Natural England says nutrient neutrality is necessary to prevent algal blooms on the Broads. - Credit: Mike Page

Concerns over river pollution mean a temporary blanket ban has been placed on granting planning permission for new homes in the catchment of the Broads and Wensum. 

Norfolk councils covering this area have been told they must not approve schemes involving 'overnight accommodation' until they can prove they would not lead to more nutrients flowing into waterways.

The Fakenham Urban Expansion - which includes up to 950 homes, shops, a school and a hotel - is the most radical development seen in the town for several years. 

Work is set to begin later in 2022 to build a new roundabout adjoining the A148 Fakenham bypass.

No homes are due to be built until spring 2023, but Christopher Cushing - North Norfolk district councillor for Fakenham's Lancaster North ward - said he hoped contingency plans were in place. 

“I understand it is unlikely that Natural England’s edict on nutrient neutrality will affect the roundabout," said Mr Cushing, leader of the Conservation opposition at North Norfolk District Council (NNDC). 

“The next stage is a detailed planning submission for the first phase of housing. In theory, this could be affected by Natural England’s advice.

NNDC councillor for Lancaster North, Christopher Cushion.

NNDC councillor for Lancaster North, Christopher Cushion. - Credit: NNDC.

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“This should be addressed by a Norfolk-wide plan which is expected to be in place by then to mitigate the pollution concerns that have been raised.

“This is a significant risk that is being monitored closely.”

Nutrient neutrality, which came to light in April, has left developers hoping to build properties in Norfolk in a state of limbo, but NNDC said the expansion of Fakenham was being treated as "a priority". 

A spokesman added: "The council is collaborating on countywide guidance which is expected to enable priority growth projects such as this to go ahead without significant delay.

“We will work to ensure any reserved matters applications submitted can be determined in compliance with the guidance and keep delays to a minimum.”