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Dossier of discontent

PUBLISHED: 16:57 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 21:31 07 July 2010

A dossier of objections has been launched against a plan to convert parts of a former medieval Cluniac priory site in Thetford into homes.

The scheme for 26 homes by H G Developments would put an end to any proposals to turn the Abbey Farm Barns site in Thetford into a heritage or visitor centre.

A dossier of objections has been launched against a plan to convert parts of a former medieval Cluniac priory site in Thetford into homes.

The scheme for 26 homes by H G Developments would put an end to any proposals to turn the Abbey Farm Barns site in Thetford into a heritage or visitor centre.

It replaces an identical scheme for the site, agreed last year by Breckland Council but presently subject to a judicial review lodged by campaigners.

It would see an unlisted barn converted into six homes and two ranges of unlisted buildings demolished on the site at Monksgate.

Two of the buildings on the site - Abbey Farm Cottages and abbey Farm Barn - are Grade 1 listed and said to be significant remains of medieval structures but are on English Heritage's register of buildings at risk.

Another part of the site is a Scheduled Listed Monument.

Breckland's development control committee, due to meet on Monday, is recommended to approve the scheme, subject to conditions, according to a report.

The main issues, it says, are the historic nature of the buildings, possible alternative uses and the impact of the development on the area.

The report says that while there has been interest in turning the site into a visitor centre, these were not deemed to have been proved to be viable, although an update would be given on a Thetford Society proposal for the site at the meeting.

However, some, including Thetford Town Council, say that the town's recent boom through growth point status could open up doors for funding for a visitor and tourism scheme for the site that would make it viable.

Others, including the Council for British Archaeology and the Ancient Monuments Society, have said they would be willing to get involved in projects looking at “more sympathetic” uses for the site.

The Ancient Monument Society says the site is “an unrivalled historic asset”. Other bodies opposing the scheme are the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and Norfolk Historic Buildings.

However, English Heritage says the need to secure the future of the site means it would not oppose housing, but that local interest in an alternative heritage use for the site should be considered.

Norfolk Landscape Archaeology had no objections to the scheme and the scheme was supported by the council's own historic buildings officer.

The report states: “It is a widely held view among those objecting to the proposed residential development that the historic interest of the site would be better served if it were to be developed for public or community use.”

But it concludes that planning permission should be granted subject to conditions.

Up to late 1980s: The site was used as a local authority depot.

1992: A working group was set up to look at its future use.

1997: English Heritage put forward a proposal for a visitor centre linked to the priory.

2000: Those plans were dropped.

2001: The council commissioned a planning brief to support the sale of the land.

2002: The land was sold to H G Developments.

2008: Planning permission granted for 26 homes subject to judicial review.

2009: Plans resubmitted.

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