Stone curlew habitat threatens 5,000 new homes in Norfolk
- By Mariam Issimdar & Owen Sennitt
- BBC News, Norfolk and Local Democracy Reporting Service
Plans to develop 5,000 new homes in 24 locations could be blocked due to threats posed to the habitat of a threatened bird.
Natural England said the Breckland area of Norfolk was a key nesting site for stone curlews.
The government body has reassessed several protected sites close to where stone curlews nest in the county.
Breckland Council said locations earmarked for new homes might no longer be suitable.
Natural England stressed some areas had been removed from the protection zones, making it easier to build homes there.
The 24 locations previously identified by the council for potential housing were near Thetford, as well as the villages of Thompson, Foulden, Gooderstone and Cockley Cley.
Council officials warned if authorities approved building in the restricted zones, they would likely face a legal challenge from Natural England.
At a recent council meeting, Breckland councillors agreed to comply with Natural England’s advice and adopt the new restrictions when determining planning applications.
It is the latest issue to put the organisation at odds with efforts to build new homes, after rules held up housebuilding in large areas of Norfolk in a row over so-called ‘nutrient neutrality’ or water pollution rules.
Sarah Suggitt, the council’s executive member for strategic and operational planning, said: “The Brecks is an area of significant value to bird life, including stone curlews, woodlarks and nightjars and the special protection area (SPA) is designed to protect this landscape.
“We are very fortunate to live and work in such a beautiful and special part of the country and this is why it is important for us to adopt this latest advice given.”
Most of the schemes impacted had not yet reached the planning stage.
However, there are two applications in Foulden and Thompson for 25 homes that are now affected by the regulations.
Under Natural England’s guidelines, development is restricted in order to minimise the impact on the birds, which are sensitive to urban development and can be disturbed by ramblers and dog walkers.