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Proposed eco-hamlet causes ruckus

PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:01 21 May 2010

OPPOSITION is mounting against a scheme by an environmentally friendly community group to establish a specially-designed eco-hamlet near Beccles.

The Norwich-based Common Ground Co-operative is hoping to start a sustainable community which will have a minimal impact on climate change and allow them to tend the land and steward the countryside.

OPPOSITION is mounting against proposals by

an environmentally-friendly community group to

establish a specially-designed eco-hamlet near Beccles.

The Norwich-based Common Ground Co-operative is hoping to start a sustainable community which will have a minimal impact on climate change and allow them to tend the land and steward the countryside.

But villagers in Ilketshall St Andrew and nearby Barsham have spoken out against the plans, saying that their villages are unsuitable for any development.

Thirty-two people attended an action meeting this week to campaign against the scheme, although the co-operative claims its ideas will benefit the local area.

The 20-acre plot of land on Clarke's Lane will be home to 12 people living in straw bale homes, with a communal building and a solar-powered laundry and toilet block. Land will be used for growing crops, keeping goats and chickens and building a carpentry workshop so members can work

part-time in the local area and spend the rest of their time in the hamlet.

Richard Jackson, a member of the Common Ground Co-operative, said that the group was keen to have a strict planning criteria for the application to ensure it lives up to its green promises, including restrictions on car usage and a limit on the number of people allowed to live there. As a non-profit cooperative,it will not be able to sell the land to make money.

Mr Jackson, who has lived in a housing cooperative on Aylsham Road in Norwich for seven years, said: "The primary reasons for doing this are to minimise our impact on climate change, to contribute to the wider community and to responsibly steward the countryside. If we can't meet these aims then we're not being sustainable and we don't want to be there any more than we want some developer to come and build an estate of houses there."

He said that members will be holding an informal open evening at Ilketshall St Andrew village hall on Wednesday so villagers can look at the plans and find out more about the scheme.

"Understandably, people are going to be a little cautious of us because this is a very unusual project, but we hope as trust builds up there'll be much more flow between the local community and ourselves," he added.

John Bedwell, clerk to Ilketshall St Andrew Parish Council, said the plans should be refused: "This proposal is dressed up in green credentials and is really nothing more than a housing development on a green field site."

Villager Phil Griffith, who lives on Clarke's Lane, said the rural site should not be used for a new development.

He said: "This area is not without suitable potential sites, likely fringing existing industrial areas outside of towns - but not in a residential village location.

"We have no precedents here; no affordable housing, no commerce, no industry. This is a residential area with conventional farming as the only businesses. Orchard Farm Fields should remain just that, fields."

Richard Green, secretary of the Orchard Farm Fields Action Group, said 32 people attended the first group meeting on Wednesday.

"Quite a high percentage of the village population is against it - there's some very strong feeling brewing," he added.

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