Norwich’s Deer Park gets special status

Published:
2:50 PM August 5, 2022



A beloved city green space threatened with development has been given special status meaning it should be protected for generations to come.

But the developer behind plans to build homes on Deer Park, in Old Catton, has declared he plans to carry on regardless.

Deer Park has been designated as an Asset of Community Value by Broadland Council. It is awarded to buildings, land or amenities that are important to communities in a bid to retain and save them.

The park, which is well-known as the inspiration for Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, was sold by the Buxton family to Attleborough-based housing company Devlin Developments in April.


Horses in Old Catton’s Deer Park
– Credits: Kathy Branson

Broadland District Council’s heritage champion councillor Karen Vincent (Con) said: “I am delighted to hear that the deer park has been designated an Asset of Community Value.

“It is quite simply unique – not only of historical importance, and a visual amenity readily seen and enjoyed by all that pass by, it is an important natural habitat which supports a myriad of wildlife and birds.

“The Deer Park is recognized as an open space of real importance, local visual amenity value and historic importance in the Old Catton Neighborhood Plan. The park is also registered by Historic England as a Grade II-designated park.”

Karen Vincent, vice chairman Broadland District Council, speaks at the launch of the Heritage Open D

Karen Vincent, member champion for heritage at Broadland District Council
– Credits: Denise Bradley

But despite the celebration of campaigners developer Lee Devin was unmoved by the declaration saying he would battle on in his bid to build on Deer Park.

The open space is in the heart of the Old Catton Conservation Area with unobstructed views from Spixworth Road and is often enjoyed by those who visit the war memorial or grazing horses.

If the owner of an Asset of Community Value wishes to sell it, they must inform the council.

The Deer Park in Old Catton where horses can be seen

The Deer Park in Old Catton where horses can be seen
– Credits: Ben Hardy

This triggers the Community Right to Bid – which gives voluntary and community organizations a chance to prepare to bid on the asset. There is a six-month moratorium during which the owner cannot sell the property on the open market, designed to give time to the community groups to develop a proposal and raise any necessary capital.

Kathy Branson of the Deer Park Action Group, which has supported Cllr Vincent’s efforts to protect the site, said that campaigners are “over the moon” after being told of the declaration.

Kathy Branson of Deer Park Action Group

Kathy Branson of Deer Park Action Group
– Credits: Kathy Branson

She said: “We worked really hard writing letters of support and signing Cllr Vincent’s petition in support of the nomination.

“We hope now that the property developer will see that there are lots of things in place to protect Deer Park and keep it as it is.

“This offers additional protection.

“But there’s no relaxation to be had. We will continue to develop our campaign to assemble evidence that the deer park should not be built on.

Deer Park Action Group

Deer Park Action Group
– Credits: Cog Media

“We have evidence of wildlife that lives there, the fact it’s a big flooding risk, around infrastructure and access and things like health and wellbeing as well as heritage and history.

“You can just build on something that Anna Sewell looked at when she was writing Black Beauty.

Looking towards the Deer Park in Old Catton from Church Street

Looking towards the Deer Park in Old Catton from Church Street
– Credits: Ben Hardy

“We are prepared to present those should a planning application ever emerge.

“We’ve won the battle but we’ve not won the war.”

Cllr Ken Leggett (Con) said: “It’s obviously a positive move. We will be taking very strong notice of the local people’s concerns and wishes.

Kenneth Leggett, councillor for Old Catton

Kenneth Leggett, district councilor for Old Catton
– Credits: Brittany Woodman

“We’ve got to do what is to the benefit of the health and wellbeing of those who live here.

“The declaration will put a very strong pressure locally for the park to remain undeveloped.

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton

A sunset over the Deer Park in Old Catton
– Credits: Kathy Branson

“The owner of the land may very well put in an application but with its value to the community, this is a merit that has got to be taken in to consideration.”

Fellow councilor Richard Potter (Con) added: “I am absolutely thrilled, and not just from my perspective, but that of the local community.

Richard Potter, district councillor for Old Catton

Richard Potter, district councillor for Old Catton
– Credits: Richard Potter

“It’s been incredible to see people come together like this.

“In local politics there often can be quite a divide but everyone has been on the same page with this issue.

“It’s remarkable.”

Looking towards the Deer Park in Old Catton from Church Street

Looking towards the Deer Park in Old Catton from Church Street
– Credits: Ben Hardy

Deer Park Action Group will host a community meeting on Monday, August 8 at Church Hall, Blacksmiths Way from 6pm.

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