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Sewage system could hold up expansion

PUBLISHED: 11:26 16 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 07 July 2010

A major expansion of Fakenham could be put on hold if work is needed to improve the town's sewage system to cope with 800 planned new homes.

North Norfolk District Council officers are drafting Local Development Framework (LDF) plans for where vital new housing could be built in the district until 2021.

A major expansion of Fakenham could be put on hold if work is needed to improve the town's sewage system to cope with 800 planned new homes.

North Norfolk District Council officers are drafting Local Development Framework (LDF) plans for where vital new housing could be built in the district until 2021.

Fakenham has been identified as the “best opportunity to accommodate significant development”, with land to the south of the A148 bypass earmarked for 800 homes, a primary school and businesses.

But a report to the LDF working party says the ambitious planned expansion “must not proceed” until a government study into water quality, due to be published in December, is completed.

The Environment Agency (EA) is carrying out a Review of Consents to assess licences for discharge into rivers, including the protected conservation area of the River Wensum.

EA chiefs said they were unlikely to enforce improvements at Fakenham's treatment works based on current capacity - but if more homes were built it would be down to Anglian Water to decide if upgrades were needed.

Mark Ashwell, a senior planning officer at the district council, said: “Before any development can take place in Fakenham we need to know what the Review of Consents will say and then we need to be satisfied that the developer of the allocated land can meet these standards.

“It does not mean that the site cannot be developed, but it could mean it is delayed until the requirements can be met.”

Mr Ashwell said the draft plan would still be included in a public consultation due to start in June, and hoped the issue could be resolved before final plans are submitted in September.

He said: “Rightly, the EA are under obligation to protect the River Wensum, but we cannot pre-empt the decision and stop the process. We are keen to get public reaction on these issues.”

Jonathan Thompson, the EA's eastern planning team leader, said much of the review was complete and the agency would be able to make clear recommendations at the June consultation.

“The key issue is that at the moment there is no intention to require Fakenham to do anything to their works,” he said. “If they have sufficient capacity now, nothing would change - but if more homes are built, it will be down to the water company to decide if they have the necessary headroom.”

Anglian Water spokesman Dan Baker said: “A key priority for us is to look at future development and make sure anything which comes in does not impact on our customers or the environment we operate in.

“Whether that means we need to improve or increase the existing infrastructure is something we will know when we know the outcome of the LDF.

“We are working closely with the EA and with the council as they develop the LDF and the last thing we want to do is stand in the way of important development.”


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