Calls for action on White Hart Street, Thetford

Antisocial behaviour in an area of Thetford has blighted the lives of nearby business owners who say they are losing trade and intimidated by people hanging around.

They say there can be up to 30 youngsters loitering on White Hart Street in the town centre, blocking the road to traffic and putting off customers, while an alley leading from the street to Minstergate is often littered with alcohol bottles, glass, used condoms, and used as a toilet.

This has put many off using the alleyway altogether, and left more than one business considering closing.

Although the issue has been adopted by the Thetford Safer Neighbourhood Team as a priority, businesses say this does not go far enough and CCTV should be re-directed towards the whole of the street, and a wall next to the alleyway removed or lowered, to open it up.

Roy Brame, 57, has owned Cobra Electrical Appliances for 36 years but since moving to White Hart Street from King Street in October last year has had his shop windows smashed three times.

He said: “It’s become a no-go-area and I’m now thinking of closing my business because I’m spending more than I make in profit. It’s been going on since the first week I was here. On a Saturday afternoon we’ve got kids swearing at people as they walk past and spitting at them and getting in the middle of the road. In the alleyway it’s the only place they can keep dry and it’s used as a public toilet. Everybody in the street is feeling this.”

An employee at nearby cafe Marvella’s, who did not want to be named, said she no longer used the alleyway and believed the problems were affecting the business.

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Sgt Jon Papworth of Thetford Safer Neighbourhood Team said officers were conducting high-visibility patrols at key times, speaking to groups congregating in the area, and were working with Breckland Council for a long-term solution.

He added: “This sort of anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated in Thetford and although police investigations are in their early stages, we are committed to bringing a satisfactory conclusion to this matter for residents and businesses owners in the area.”

Breckland Council officers met at the street yesterday with Thetford Town councillor Corinne Fulford and county councillor for Thetford west, Mike Brindle.

Mr Brindle said: “The situation at White Hart Street is totally unsatisfactory. The alleyway that runs to Minstergate is regularly misused illegally because it offers privacy, shelter and a rapid exit in several directions. Some residents would like the alleyway to be stopped up. Unfortunately this would be difficult to achieve because it provides a fire escape route for the flat above Cobra Domestic and for the restaurant on the other side. It is also a public right of way.”

A council spokesman said opening up the alley would need further investigation in terms of ownership and planning permission. She added that moving existing CCTV cameras would not be possible as one already located on White Hart Street, on the corner of Hudsons, was “in the best location in terms of covering the area” as it captured more than one street, and that the alley was “blind” so CCTV could not cover it.