Scarning Haven of Peace

As proof that what goes around comes around, here is a story from sixty years ago which could easily be in today’s EDP. It is a long saga which involves a controversial proposal to build a housing estate within Scarning. It involved railway connections (North Elmham?), a retirement village (Etling Green?), and building on land prone to flooding (just about anywhere!). It was so controversial that it required appeals, public enquiries, EDP editorials and even questions in Parliament.

The land was on Podmore Lane in Scarning, but I’m not certain exactly where, so it would be wonderful if could tell more about the proposal.  Does anyone one remember the story, or perhaps your parents do? I’d love to hear more – Chris Farnham 07836 675858 Chris@FarnhamFarms.Co.UK

10th August 1962

Part One

“Haven of Peace for Scarning?
Inquiry into “Homes for the nervous” plan

A proposal to develop a “haven of peace” in the heart of Norfolk was the subject of a public inquiry at Dereham yesterday.
The appeal was by Messrs. Potter Brothers, the Dereham building firm, against refusal by Norfolk County Council to allow 65 homes to be built on a site at Low Meadow, Podmore, Scarning.
The site, said Mr. L.H. Allwood who appeared for the firm, was one ideally suited for the purpose and it was in fact deliberately chosen because of its isolation.


“No builder in his right mind would ever contemplate speculative building of an ordinary estate in such a spot,” Mr. Allwood added.
Mr. Allwood then went on to explain that the houses would cater for a special class of people – not necessarily elderly people, but more middle-aged people who for personal reasons wanted a country life.
“It is Mr. Potter’s experience that there are innumerable people throughout the country who for one reason or another have found themselves unable to survive the hurly burly of urban life. are nervous and possibly near physical wrecks who desperately seek a home in a place where they can live in peace and quiet – a haven, Scarning Haven as Mr. Potter would call this venture.” said Mr Allwood.

Swimming Pool

Mr. Allwood referred to Mr Potter as a builder in “a very substantial way”, and a most religious man. He described his Quebec Hall and Eckling Grange retirement schemes at Dereham as probably unique in the whole of the country.”
“This proposed Scarning Haven will operate in exactly the same way, the dwellings being purchased at a low fee, with the capital, less an agreed rent for time spent in occupation refunded if the person concerned wanted to leave,” said Mr Allwood.
Giving evidence, Mr David Potter, head with a firm, said that the need for the type of haven he proposed was overwhelming. “It would be a true haven, a harbour from the rough storm of life” he said.
Mr Potter explained that he proposed having two resident wardens on the site, swimming pool, a shop as well as the usual amenities and British Railways had agreed to provide a halt for residents.
Mr. Michael Litton, of the firm of R.C. Knights & Sons, said the land as it stood at present was derelict and unused. It had been offered for agricultural use but no one was interested.
Mrs. Roger North, branch director of Norfolk Red Cross, told the inquiry that the new Red Cross H.Q. in Dereham had been built at cost price by Mr. Potter.

“Not for gain”

“I am sure he is not in this project for financial gain. I was very much surprised to find that there were still such men in business. This new scheme will fulfil as great a need as the two old people schemes have done ,” said Mrs North.
Mr. J.B. Heath, for the County Council, said Mr. Potter’s application was refused because it was contrary to the basic planning policy of the Council.
“This site is isolated from the village and from the trunk road. The County Council tries to integrate development in the open countryside with existing development. Here we have an urban layout which would be super imposed on a purely rural landscape.”

Shot in arm

Mr Heath considered that the project could be associated with any one of the numerous villages in Norfolk, which were stagnating in a rural backwater, and would welcome it as a shot in the arm.
Mr. K.P. Dickerson, the north-west area planning officer, said that when the original application was refused, it appeared to be a straightforward housing estate. Mr Potter, then submitted further evidence that it was the house people who were medically sick or in hard circumstances, but he did not feel this outweigh the original objections.
Mr. Dickerson agreed with Mr Allwood that it would add to the cost of the dwellings, if they were built elsewhere as the 16 acres appeal site had probably been bought exceptionally cheaply.
After the formal cases for Mr Potter, and the County Council closed, Mr. G. Marfleet Brown, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government inspector, conducting the enquiry asked if any of the 90-odd people most of them from Quebec Hall and Eckling Grange, who crowded the hall, wish to speak. nine individuals spoke in support of Mr Potter. They emphasised the success of the old peoples settlements, and also the genuine altruistic motives of Mr Potter.

When the hearing closed, Mr Marfleet Brown said he would visit the appeal site, and at the request of Mr Allwood, he agreed to visit Quebec Hall and Eckling Grange too.”

Published on Friday 10 Aug 1962 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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Part Two


It was a pity that the novel housing plan conceived by a Dereham firm of builders for a country estate of small dwellings near Scarning ran into planning opposition from the start. Basically the scheme appears to be similar to the two old people’s settlements established by the same firm at Dereham. These have met a genuine need not satisfied by local authorities.

But the Scarning scheme was intended for younger people—the middle-aged seeking a haven from the noise and pressure of urban existence. We doubt if anyone would question that more houses for people of modest means are badly needed in Norfolk as elsewhere and that there are, too, quite a number of those nearing retirement who, for health reasons, would like to get away from town life. Why then could not such an imaginative plan have the blessing of the County Council instead of being rejected outright?

Dissatisfied with the decision, the developers sought the ruling of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, whose representative held a public inquiry into the project last week. The choice of an isolated site away from existing development was deliberate, the firm claimed, but it contravened the planning authority’s basic principle that houses—apart from those needed for agriculture— should be associated with an existing community. There are good reasons for this – not least the cost of bringing public services to an isolated spot. This objection had been at least partly met by the developers undertaking to provide all amenities.

Nor could any suggestion of alienating good agricultural land be sustained as the site had been described as derelict.

The objection of the county planning authority on visual amenity grounds would have been stronger if the site chosen were near a favoured beauty spot or on the coast. By no stretch of imagination could Scarning claim those advantages. Peace and country air are the chief requirements of those for whom the little settlement was to cater. The nature of the scheme is sufficiently unusual for it to be unlikely that a relaxation of the planning objection would invite a host of similar applications. Whatever the Minister’s decision on the particular site we hope that means will be found to encourage such useful types of development in the county.”

Published on Monday 13 Aug 1962 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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13th August 1962
7th February 1964

Part Three

“To question Minister on Scarning houses

In the House of Commons next Tuesday, Mr. A. V. Hilton, M.P. for South-West Norfolk, will ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Sir Keith Joseph, why planning permission was not given for the development and building of more than 100 dwellings on land at Podmore, Scorning.
He will also ask in view of the shortage of houses in the area. if the Minister will reconsider his decision and allow these houses to be built.”

Published on Friday 7 Feb 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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Part Four

“Scarning housing application could be made again

A written Parliamentary reply has been given to Mr. A. V. Hilton, M.P. for South-West Norfolk. about the refusal of planning permission for more than 100 dwellings on land at Podmore, Seaming.
Mr. Hilton asked if in view of the shortage of houses in the area the Minister would reconsider his decision and allow these houses to be built.
Mr. F. V. Corfield, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Housing, states that the proposal was rejected by Norfolk County Council because it did not comply with their policy for development in rural areas.
The applicants appealed, but the Minister could not accept the appeal because they had not complied with a statutory requirement. “They are, of course, free to make a fresh application and appeal to him if permission is again refused,” says Mr. Corfield.”

Published on Wednesday 12 Feb 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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12th February 1964
9th March 1964

Part Five

“Town and Country Planning Act 1962


NOTICE is Hereby Given that application is being made to the Mitford and Launditch Rural District Council by David Charles Potter. trading as Potter Brothers. Yaxham Road. East Dereham. in the County of Norfolk. for planning permission in respect of the building of 147 dwelling-houses, with. ancillary thereto. sewage disposal works, water works and a swimming pool.
A copy of the application and of the plans and other documents submitted with it may be inspected at all reasonable hours at the offices of Messrs. Hood, Vores & Allwood. Solicitors. The Priory, Church Street, East Dereham. in the County of Norfolk, during the period of 21 days beginning with the date of this notice.
Any person who wishes to make representation to the above•mentioned Council about the application should make them in writing within that period to the Clerk of the Council at the Guildhall, East Dereham aforesaid.

Dated 6th day of March. 1964 (Sgd) HOOD. VORES & ALLWOOD. On behalf of the said David Charles Potter.”

Published on Monday 9 Mar 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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Part Six

“Sir—Last Tuesday’s “E.D.P.” contained items that deserve further exploration. In a leading article it stated 60.000 acres of good agricultural land is being absorbed annually for building. Then the same issue reported the rejection of the plan to build 107 dwellings o derelict, useless land at Scarning that would sell at the low price of between £l3OO and £1500. This estate would have roads, sewers, water works. street lighting and a shop provided at no cost to the local council. The Planning Sub-Committee says the site is “divorced ” from the parish. Yet it Is only five minutes walk to the chapel, church, public-house, main bus route, the railway providing a halt within one minute.
Compare this with old people’s bungalows (built by us) for the local authority at Shipdham, which cost each year the Exchequer £24. Norfolk County Council £3O, Mitford and Launditch R.D.C. £3O. The 107 bungalows that I propose building would have produced income for the Council amounting to £2675 each year.
I was sold this land cheaply by a local farmer, which means I can build and sell cheaply, whose desire was to see it used for bungalows for people who were compelled to retire prematurely and with modest means. Scarning has little to boast about in beauty and since this application has been put in planning permission has been given for vet another already over crowded area for scrap cars and junk!
Does this make sense when the Government is urging builders and local authorities to give priority to the need to provide cheap but good homes for retired persons?—Yours faithfully.

D. C. POTTER, (for Potter Bros.).

Published on Tuesday 30 Jun 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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9th March 1964
13th July 1964

Part Seven

“Planning plaint

Sir—Your front page headlines and leading article on Wednesday regarding the 500.000 new homes required each year are really amusing, and I wonder how long the public is going to tolerate the present ridiculous set up of town and country planning authorities.
The present “envelope system” of villages is putting money into the hands and pockets of landowners only, for as soon as they know that their land is within an envelope they raise the price sky high, which puts the cost of any house built on it beyond the reach of ordinary people. Moreover, these landowners are the people who will control the amount of building that can be done in any village, not the Government or the builders. What can be more absurd than a situation where one is allowed to build but cannot buy the land; and where one can get the land to build but the planning authorities refuse permission. This has been my recent experience at Scarning, where I want to erect 107 houses on non-agricultural land.
I am sending a copy of this letter, together with your paper, to the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

—Yours faithfully. D. C. POTTER (for Potter Bros.)

Published on Monday 13 Jul 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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Part Eight

“Norfolk low-cost homes builder puts Scarning case again

Government approval was ought yesterday for a project to provide low-price homes in Norfolk for those in need and those who want to move out of congested areas.
The idea is that of Mr. David Potter, a Dereham builder, who proposes to build 107 houses or bungalows, together with sewage disposal works, water works and a swimming pool, on a 164-acre site at Podmore, Scarning, near Dereham.
A proposal on similar lines was rejected by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government two years ago after a public inquiry. The plan was the subject of another inquiry in Norwich yesterday when Mr. Potter appealed against the County Council’s refusal to permit the development.

Similar Schemes

Mr. F. Horfield, who appeared for the appellant, said the aim was to produce houses at low cost and in circumstances in which speculation would be reduced to a minimum.
It was felt that the conclusions of the inspector, who conducted the previous inquiry, were based on some misunderstanding as to the nature of the project.
He referred to schemes which Mr. Potter had developed at Quebec Hall and Eckling Grange at Dereham and said the one at Podmore would be on similar lines, although the houses would be larger.
It was not the intention that the houses should he occupied by one particular age group. But there would be two wardens’ houses so that those living on their own or the infirm could summon help if needed.

Great Advance

Mr. Horfield said he proposal was a great advance on many schemes provided by local authorities.
Answering a planning objection that the site was remote from development, he said Scarning stretched for three miles along the main road and the nucleus of development was the church, village hall and public house.
“This, in a sense, is a new village.” He said.
Mrs. Ruby Wright, chairman of Scarning Parish Council, said the Council welcomed the proposal, which would inject new life into the village.
Letters from Mr. Paul Hawkins, M.P. for South-West Norfolk, and his predecessor, Mr Albert Hilton, both supporting Mr. Potter’s proposal, were handed to the inspector. “It seems an admirable project that should be welcomed,” wrote Mr. Hawkins.
Presenting the case for the County Council. Mr. J. Heath said that from the planning aspect, the site could not be more wrong for the development.
It was isolated from an existing community and served by roads which were totally inadequate for the traffic likely to use it. It would be expensive to widen the roads to anything like by-law widths.

Low Lying

The site was also low-lying and often waterlogged. “We take the view that development of this sort should be adjacent to existing development either at Dereham or some other village.” he said.
There was no reason to doubt the sincerity of the appellant, but it was difficult to appreciate what sort of persons Mr. Potter envisaged as occupants of the houses.
It seemed fairly certain there would be more middle-aged or elderly people and the inspector might have some misgivings on whether those people should be all accommodated in the same area.

The Minister’s decision will be announced later.”

Published on Thursday 10 Dec 1964 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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10th December 1964
11th March 1965

Part Nine


Sir—The residents of the council houses owned by the Mitford and Launditch R.D.C. are very distressed at the decision of the Housing Minister in not allowing Mr. D. C. Potter to build on his ground at Scarning. Surely well-laid out bungalows with all amenities – water, drainage etc., would be far better in all respects than the present pre war council houses with no bathroom, no sanitation and water drawn from a pump – especially as they have just received a notification from the Council that they will have to pay an increase in rent from April 5th, next.

It is very difficult to understand why we should be expected to pay even higher rents for such a primitive way of living in these days of “all modern conveniences” and central heating. – Yours, etc.,

1, Council, Houses, Scarning.”

Published on Thursday 11 Mar 1965 by the Eastern Daily Press

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Part Ten

Potter Bros had evidentially given up trying to get planning permission for the “Scarning Haven” housing estate and the land was being used for agriculture. A large photo accompanied the article on the EDP front page.


BECAUSE a field was so wet and rough it could not be combined, this 74-year-old steam traction engine was put in use to drive a threshing drum at Podmore, Scarning, on Saturday.

“She’s near on 80 years of age and she’ll wear out 50 of your modern tractors,” Mr. Walter Barrett said of the museum piece Burrell engine. He and his brother-in-law, Mr. Walter Desborough, who have worked together for many years, were in charge of it.
The Burrell is part of the collection of traction engines which Mr. David Potter, the Dereham builder, keeps in a yard at his premises. Eighteen months ago the engine, which stood for 20 years in a field at Coltishall, was renovated and it is now in perfect working order.
Both Mr. Barrett and Mr. Des borough have absolute faith in the engine. “She is stronger than any tractor and much more reliable,” said Mr. Desborough.

The field at Podmore is where Mr. Potter has tried unsuccessfully to gain planning permission to build a housing estate.

When it was decided to use the Burrell Mr. Potter arranged to have the event recorded on film and tape.”

Published on Monday 11 Oct 1965 by the Eastern Daily Press.

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11th October 1965