The row over controversial plans which could see thousands of homes on a Norfolk estate knocked down and replaced has intensified – with concerns over how schools would cope when hundreds of new houses are built.
Leaders at Norfolk County Council this week signed a commitment to work with housing association Flagship Housing Group and Breckland Council on plans to demolish and rebuild 540 homes on Thetford’s Abbey Estate, while constructing 490 additional houses.
But critics hit out at the Conservative-controlled cabinet at County Hall because the memorandum of understanding the organisations have agreed to does not seek money from the developers to put in extra infrastructure needed for schools and roads.
Since 2019, Flagship has been pursuing the redevelopment of the area, which would cost £250m and would take more than 20 years to complete.
It is hoped it could bring “meaningful change” to the estate, which is in the top 10pc of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.
At Monday’s meeting of the county council’s cabinet, county councillors agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding around the project, which has already been signed by Breckland Council and Flagship.
Jane James, the council’s cabinet member for corporate services and innovation, said: “I know what a great place the Abbey estate is, having grown up there with my sister and twin brothers.
“It has a fantastic, strong sense of community. However, we also know that improvements are much needed.
“We are committed to continuing to listen to what people are saying and to make sure everyone’s voice has a chance to be heard.”
However, Terry Jermy, Labour county councillor for Thetford West criticised the memorandum of understanding for not seeking section 106 contributions from the developer.
That is money which can be used for things such as new roads and extra school places.
But Mrs James said: “Children’s services are aware of the proposal and is planning accordingly for the wider Thetford area.
“It has an additional three primary schools safeguarded for the future and has secured funds to allow for further expansion of secondary capacity.
“The county council will also expect to see improved facilities to support active travel measures, as well as public transport infrastructure.”