Calls to clean up old hospital site in Thetford

Calls have been made to clear up an area outside a boarded- up building which some feel has become detrimental to the community.

The area outside the Thetford Cottage Hospital, on Earls Street, has begun to collect litter, and fencing designed to keep vandals away is broken with sharp edges jutting into the pathway.

Environmental chairman of the Thetford Society, Stuart Wilson, said the building had become “dangerous” and an “eyesore” and called on Breckland Council to serve a notice on the owner to clean it up.

“Our concerns are that the site is dilapidated and a health hazard and it’s rather unsightly in an area which is very close to the town centre and affects the amenity of the surrounding properties,” he said.

“It’s been reported there are rats in there and there’s a lot of refuse and lots of food containers which have been thrown there. If it’s not cleaned up, it’s going to get worse, presumably.”

The cottage hospital, which sits in a conservation area, and became redundant when the town’s Healthy Living Centre opened, was sold by NHS Norfolk in 2010 to a private owner.

Over recent years NHS Norfolk had submitted several planning applications for the former 19th- century hospital, on Earls Street. The most recent included four flats with the option to demolish recent additions to the building to make way for a further nine houses and 15 parking spaces.

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Objections were raised by the owner of the neighbouring bar and snooker hall, who stressed it could jeopardise his business and livelihood, and members of Breckland Council marginally voted to reject the application.

Mr Wilson added: “According to the government, in 80pc of these sorts of cases they don’t need to serve the notice – the threat of it is enough. There are systems in place for this.

“They say they want Thetford Moving Forward and having a rubbish site in the town is not really moving forward and detracts from what the objects are.

“We hope the council will support the Thetford Society in getting this cleaned up.”

A Breckland Council spokesman said the council had powers to enforce a clean-up under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act but only if the site was an immediate safety risk to the public, or an environmental hazard.

She added the council leader would write a letter to the owner of the building to say the current state of the site had been brought to his attention and ask if they were able to clear the litter and improve the appearance of the site.

An enforcement officer would also be sent to check the area.