Forced land purchase option to make way for Long Stratton bypass

Long Stratton, Norfolk. Long Stratton High Street ENGANL00120130220172713
Long Stratton, Norfolk. Long Stratton High Street ENGANL00120130220172713

Nothing should stand in the way of a 70-year wait for a Long Stratton bypass.

That was the message from the leader of South Norfolk Council, the authority which is now looking at the possibility of the forced purchase of land to ensure that the £20 million A140 road scheme is built.

Council leader, John Fuller, said: “Some people are still sceptical about this, but we are absolutely serious about making sure the bypass is delivered.”

The Conservative-controlled authority has been instructed by its top cabinet of councillors to look into the use of a legal power known as a compulsory purchase order to secure all the land needed for a bypass, proposed new homes and employment land.

Although discussions are ongoing with landowners, the council is looking at compulsory purchase powers because it could offer a less complex way of obtaining the necessary sites.

As already reported, the planning blueprint for Long Stratton, called the Area Action Plan, also includes the need for 1,800 homes, which would part pay for the bypass via Community Infrastructure Levy money, payable by housing developers to invest in things like roads, schools and open spaces.

About half the money would come from the public purse, through, for example, government road funding schemes.

Mr Fuller said: “A bypass would transform Long Stratton for the better. At the moment the road is noisy, dangerous and there’s pollution. People driving from the Waveney Valley get stuck in the traffic on what is an essential economic route between Ipswich and Norwich.

“Compulsory purchase does not only secure the land, but also acts as a safeguard so that one landowner can’t hold to ransom all the others - even though there is no suggestion that this would be the case.”

But compulsory purchasing would not be without its own costs, including potentially expensive and lengthy legal challenges by landowners.

In a report to the cabinet, which met on Tuesday, the authority’s planning policy manager Adam Nicholls, said that in order for a compulsory purchase order to be successful, a council would need to show that the resulting development “must contribute to the achievement of the promotion or achievement of the economic and/or social and/or environmental well-being of the local authority’s area”.

The report described negotiations with landowners and potential development partners as “well advanced”, but said that there were still some hold-ups.

“It is important to realise that much of this land has been promoted by the landowners as suitable for development,” said Mr Fuller.

In order for the council to move the planning blueprint forward, it needs to be able to demonstrate it can secure all the necessary land.

A piece of land the subject of a compulsory purchase bid will see the landowner normally compensated with the open market value of that piece of land.

The route of the bypass will be to the east of Long Stratton, while the majority of housing is also likely to be to the east, between the bypass edge and the existing Long Stratton development.

In June the council’s cabinet will hear about the main advantages and disadvantages of the approach.

Mr Fuller said that if all went smoothly, the compulsory purchase process could see the land secured by Christmas, but hold-ups and challenges could make it a lengthier process.