Boost for riverside in Thetford

A TOWN site in need of regeneration could become a centre for shops, restaurants and homes if proposed plans are put in place.

It had been thought the Anchor site, off Bridge Street in Thetford, would become part of the town’s academy but less-than-anticipated government funding meant this was no longer possible.

As a result a series of preliminary drawings have now been commissioned by the Moving Thetford Forward board as part of the process to find an alternative use for the site.

The board has always maintained the site was not solely bought for the use of the academy and now potential plans show the possibility of a vibrant riverside scene which could provide new homes, retail space and a chance to boost the night-time economy. While nothing is set in stone, ideas are being discussed by the board about how best to utilise the space which currently incorporates the bus station and former Anchor Hotel.

The bus station is set to relocate to the Minstergate area and the Anchor Hotel could be demolished.

The site is part of a wider aim to regenerate the town with 5,000 new homes, 6,000 new jobs, 40 hectares of employment land and improved education, health and transport services.

With the new homes mostly planned for the north of the town there were fears people would be drawn away from the town centre. This, said leader of Breckland Council and MTF board member, William Nunn, was something officials were keen to avoid.

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“I’ve always said that if we build the homes and don’t regenerate the town centre, people will go to Bury or Norwich for their social side and I think what’s key is this development goes alongside somewhere for people to go socially,” he said.

It is likely any plans would include parking, with around only six fewer spaces than currently available, shops and restaurants with flats on the floors above, and potentially space for a cinema or bowling alley.

Around �1m has been allocated by MTF for the 25,000 square feet area although it is not yet known how soon work could begin. There would be pedestrianised areas and space between the buildings and the river.

Mr Nunn said the plans were “indicative” of what could be built and added: “It’s about bringing the town centre to life.”

The next step will be to discuss the proposals with developers.