Residents of north Norfolk 98,400 of them, according to the Office for National Statistics are being urged by county planners to ‘have their say’ on the proposals outlined in the new North Norfolk Local Development Framework (LDF), which sets out the district council’s vision for development in the area for the next 15 years. Comments on the council’s core strategy, prepared on the basis of a district housing requirement for the provision of 8,000 dwellings between 2001 and 2021, will be accepted during a six-week consultation period ending on Monday, November 6, and considered by the council before the final draft is submitted to the Secretary of State in April 2007. To take part in the consultation process, contact the North Norfolk District Council (01263 516318; www.northnorfolk.org.ldf ).

The essence of the proposals is that future development in the area will be concentrated on four main towns Holt, Cromer, Fakenham and North Walsham with ‘a limited amount of additional development’ envisaged for the region’s three other main towns Sheringham, Stalham and Wells-next-the-Sea and the large village of Hoveton. A number of key villages including Aldborough, Melton Constable, Horning, Blakeney, Little Snoring and Little Walsingham have been designated ‘service villages’ where infill development will be permitted in principle.

Such villages ‘will be the subject of housing allocations ranging from 10?50 dwellings, depending on locality, at least 50% of which must be affordable housing’. The rest of north Norfolk will be designated ‘countryside’ where development will be severely restricted.

Ben Marchbank of Bedfords in Burnham Market expects to see many a volte-face before the Council’s preferred strategy is implemented, and fears that with demand for family houses in the area increasing all the time, excessive restrictions on future development may distort the present ‘delicately-balanced position’ in the north Norfolk market. Certainly, as far as period properties are concerned, he predicts that ‘end-values will carry on increasing for the foreseeable future’.

As little as five years ago, £1 million was a substantial price for a north Norfolk country house, but the few really good houses which come on the open market now tend to sell for closer to £2m. Bed-fords (01328 730500) and Knight Frank (020?7629 8171) quote a guide price of £1.8m for Thursford Old Hall (Fig 1) at Thursford, seven miles from the Georgian town of Holt and the Norfolk coast.

Built in 1857 for the Scott-Chad family, the Hall, Grade II-listed, is a splendid Jacobean Revival country house of great character, now restored by the present owner. The 4,885sq ft house stands in nine acres of wooded parkland, and has five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, six bedrooms, four bathrooms, swimming pool, outbuildings and a dovecote.

Louis de Soissons of Savills in Norwich is broadly in favour of the Council’s prop-osals, but feels that, with future develop-ment virtually outlawed in many of the area’s most popular villages, competition can only intensify for the few period vil-lage houses which come on the market each year.

Already, two historic north Norfolk country houses launched by Savills in Country Life in early September Abbey Farmhouse at Beeston Regis, near Sheringham (£1.2m) and the Geor-gian Old Rectory at Foulsham, nine miles from Fakenham (£1.3m), are under offer, after a series of competitive bids. In fact, nowadays it is not unusual for houses anywhere near the north Norfolk coast to sell for £100?150,000 above the guide price.

Away from the coast, the market is a little less frantic, and buyers get much more for their money. Savills (01603 229229) quote a guide price of £2m for the imposing neo-Jacobean Tasburgh Hall at Tasburgh, nine miles south of Norwich. Built in 1890 on the site of a much older house, Tasburgh Hall stands in 9.5 acres of secluded grounds bounded by the Hempnall Brook. The main house has five reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, eight bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus a four-bedroom dower house and a two-bedroom lodge.

Only four families have occupied rambling Mergate Hall at Bracon Ash, six miles from Norwich, since the original house was built for the Appleyards in 1490; Elizabeth I is reputed to have stayed there in 1578. The main house offered by Savills with 10.9 acres at £1.95m has four reception rooms, 10 bedrooms and six bath/shower rooms. The five-bedroom dower house is offered separately with 2.3 acres of land at £550,000.

This article first appeared in Country Life magazine on October 5, 2006