River Path Improvements

A welcome planning application is 22/01005/D for improving the part of the Yare Valley Walk from the present improved path near the Strawberry Field to the Flyover. At the flyover it will link with the recently completed Cringleford Meadow paths. This is to satisfy a condition laid upon Phase 2 of the McCarthy Stone development. The plans are at https://planning.norwich.gov.uk.

A lovely stretch of the river where path will be improved

The improvement will be along one of the prettiest stretches of the Yare Valley Walk where at times in the year marsh type flowers such as water lilies, loosestrife, marsh buttercups, etc. can be found. At present it looks less than at its best due to nettles and rampant willow herb which obscure the river in many places. In the past it has been a section that is muddy and difficult in times of bad weather, the improved surface should encourage walkers to keep to the path and to avoid trampling neighbouring vegetation. Please respond to the application by 29th August 2022 if you can see where improvements to the proposals might be made.

Time to respond to McCarthy Stone Phase 3 Planning Application!

It would have been nice to report the latest planning application for the McCarthy Stone development on Bluebell Road was a model of best practice development in an ecological sensitive area. Unfortunately the proposals in the application are far from such a model.

Foreground Phase 2 development, background (beyond fence) Phase 3 site

On a first look through the application, some concerns are:

Dwelling Density

The high dwelling density of the development and its design will have a serious visual impact on the landscape of the valley and will degrade environmental assets within and adjacent to the site. The high dwelling density should be reduced.

Policy R42 of the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP) envisaged the number of dwellings for the whole of the Bartram’s Site as being “… in the region of 120 dwellings. This figure is based on an assumption that the site will be developed mainly at low densities to ensure that impact on the landscape is minimised”. The GNLP aim was to “minimise impact on the landscape of the Yare Valley and important views”, and for the development to “protect and enhance environmental assets within and adjacent to the site”.

McCarthy and Stone in their latest Phase 3 application are proposing to build 100 dwellings in Phase 3 alone. These will be added to those of Phase 1 (61) and Phase 2 (50) resulting in a total of 211, almost double the number of 120 envisaged in the GNLP. These high densities can be expected to have a detrimental effect on the environment, both visually and ecologically. The proposals breach seriously the dwelling density safeguard of the GNLP.

Location, size and design of Infiltration “Pond”

(N.B. “Pond” is something of a misnomer here, since for much of the time it can be expected to be dry. Basin might be a better name)

The Public Access green space that formed part of Phase 2, should not be degraded by a the insertion of a large infiltration basin. Any such basin should be incorporated within the original site area for phase 3.

While accepting that that an infiltration basin is necessary to reduce runoff into the river and limit flooding downstream, little attention seems to be given to reducing the basin size by a greater use of water permeable surfaces of drives, parking areas etc., and by use of rainwater harvesting within the site. Further reduction in runoff could be achieved by reducing the dwelling density, by retaining more of the existing vegetation, and by increasing the area of planted green space in the proposals. At the same time the site’s ecology would be improved.

Little indication is given of the design of the “Pond”. Properly designed infiltration basins can be made available for public access, and can be planted with trees, shrubs and other plants, improving their visual appearance and providing habitats for wildlife.

Many mature and semi-mature trees will be removed from the site

Ecological Gain

The UK biodiversity is generally acknowledged as being in catastrophic decline. More needs to be done on this site to enhance biodiversity and provide some “ecological gain”

McCarthy Stone’s own Ecological Report makes a number of recommendations for ecological enhancement. These include “Removal of existing trees on site should be avoided were possible” and “Removal of the existing hedgerows on the site should be avoided where possible and kept to a minimum if unavoidable” The proposals include the removal of most of the relatively mature trees and shrubs in contradiction of Ecological Report’s recommendations. The site tree survey suggests that many trees are not perfect specimens, but they are established, (important in drought conditions), and considerably more mature than any that are likely to be planted as part of the development.

Please take a critical look at and respond to the plans at https://planning.norwich.gov.uk, using application number 22/00298/F and selecting the Documents tab. The Layout Plan, Tree Survey and Ecological Report are good start points. Comment by 24th August 2022.

Your comment is essential if these proposals are to be improved.