Diss Express column - July 2017

Long Stratton Masterplans on show
Residents in Long Stratton have been waiting for a bypass since the 1930s. By any standards, this is far too long.  

Last week’s exhibition at the Methodist Church was a good opportunity for local people to see the proposed masterplan for the village. It really does seem that a bypass is now tantalisingly within reach, part-funded by 1,800 new houses.

This represents an unmissable opportunity for residents to shape Long Stratton into a very attractive place to live and work.  The key thing is that schools, health facilities and other services for Long Stratton should keep pace with – or even be ahead of – new growth.  It is good news that developers are taking a positive role in these conversations.

The plans on display represent a good starting point. Local people will want to have their say.  You can find out more by visiting the new Stratton Community Growth Forum website at: https://strattoncommunitygrowthforum.co.uk

‘How Should Norfok Grow?’
Young people are finding it ever more difficult to get a place of their own. At the same time, their parents and grandparents – who, of course, want to see their families do well – will nonetheless lobby against “development”.

Why? It’s because they fear – and too often they are quite right – exactly what “development” means: more standard boxes; high prices; no extra facilities; profit for someone else; and no benefit for local people.

If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will keep getting what we’ve always got.  It has to change. Development should be about making great places to live – well-designed, well-built and “green” homes with really good digital connections, within communities which have top notch facilities.

That’s why I held a housing conference near Norwich as part of my ‘How Should Norfolk Grow?’ initiative, to discuss good development with housing and development experts. The participants produced a real buzz and town and parish councils at the conference liked what they heard. As one parish clerk put it: “there were a lot of lightbulbs coming on in the room”. 

Housing growth need not be delivered through bland estates that all look the same. There is another way. We should embrace good growth using beauty and choice for housebuyers as the main yardsticks. It should become easy to get a service plot of land for people who want to build their own house or – more probably – to get an old-fashioned housebuilder to build the house they actually want, to their own design. Growth can be beautiful, respectful and desirable. We just need to choose to ‘do different’.

Gissing Community Centre
Congratulations to the people of Gissing on their superb new Community Centre, which really is something special.

The village’s own charity, The Heart of Gissing, has put many years of hard work into the new facility, assisted by a Big Lottery Fund grant of £711,365.  But it’s about much more than money; the vision has to be right. And as any visitor to the building can see, the vision is there in spades. 

Heart of Gissing Chair Rose Eddington and her team have done an astounding job.  A huge amount of time, love and energy has gone into this project. The finished building is a real testament to what people working together can achieve for a local community.


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