By Richard Taylor
As spring arrives in Reepham, the two fields forming the site of a proposed 141-house development at the end of Broomhill Lane present contrasting pictures.
In the field that borders the continuation of Park Lane the first shoots of a spring-drilled crop are showing.
The other, to the south of Broomhill Lane, which has been a school playing field since 1968 and contains the school and college observatory, looks rather abandoned.
Some 26 months since plans were exhibited at a public consultation event in Reepham Town Hall – when only 4% approved the proposal “in principle” – the application to build the houses on the two fields has yet to be brought to Broadland District Council’s Planning Committee.
The most recent delay is the result of Natural England’s requirement to conduct a habitats regulations assessment on sites “already in an unfavourable condition due to nitrates and phosphates”.
In Norfolk, this chiefly means the Broads and, in the case of any new building in Reepham, the River Wensum catchment area. The new requirement applies to all types of new building that include overnight accommodation.
Modelling used in the diffuse water pollution plan for the Wensum suggests agriculture is responsible for 30% of phosphate pollution – 17% from livestock and 13% from arable – while sewage treatment works account for 54%.
This means that sewage from any new housing could have the biggest effect on the health of the Wensum and its various becks and streams that flow through Reepham and Whitwell, such as the Blackwater.
Lin Garland, chair of the Whitwell Common trustees, has already expressed concern about “increased levels of water pollution from sewerage, etc., entering the River Blackwater and its tributaries which flow through the proposed site and on, into and around Whitwell Common”, which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The 141 houses proposed for Broomhill Lane, plus the 70-bed care home and 35 assisted-housing flats and bungalows already approved on Stony Lane, Reepham, could generate sewage from the occupancy of more than 500 additional bedrooms.
Broadland District Council’s planners will attempt to assess what developers need to do to ensure what is called “nutrient neutrality”: that is to ensure development does not worsen the condition of the River Wensum.
Meanwhile, some Reepham residents are concerned about the reduction of the town’s existing green infrastructure because of the amount of tree felling that will be required, as shown in schedules published on the Broadland planning portal.