Homes plan sparkes fears

CONCERNS over plans to build 5,000 new homes to the north of Thetford proved many and varied at a meeting held earlier this week.

Worries over an increase in traffic, the quantity of housing, jobs and regeneration of the town centre dominated the meeting at Thetford Academy’s north site when about 100 people turned out to hear proposals for the Thetford Sustainable Urban Extension explained.

The urban extension would centre on a large tract of land between the northern boundary of Thetford and the A11, owned by the Kilverstone and Crown Estates.

The aim would be to deliver the homes alongside new jobs, schools, health services and a transport system linking the development with the town centre.

Top of the concerns for many on Monday night was the possibility the development would create more traffic and cause congestion on already busy roads in and out of the town.

However William Van Cutsem, spokesman for property company Pigeon which is promoting the scheme on behalf of the landowners, said the aim was to entice people onto public transport. This would run every five minutes into Thetford and would encourage people into the town centre to aid regeneration.

Highways network manager for Norfolk County Council, Tim Edmunds, added: “The premise we’ve looked at is what we can do to mitigate all the impact. It does mean Thetford has to change however. It has to be a more sustainable town and we have to give people the chance to travel by foot and public transport.

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“If we just take Thetford Urban Extension, it’s too far to walk into town. It’s probably a reasonable cycling distance but it will rely on public transport. It doesn’t mean people can’t drive but if everyone did the place would grind to a halt quite frankly.”

As the meeting progressed, leader of Breckland Council, William Nunn, reassured Croxton residents that parish boundaries would not change, and urged people to think of the benefits more housing could bring.

Mr Nunn went on to emphasise the currently high number of young people in Thetford who would need to be housed in future years, plus the opportunity to attract new business, which was already beginning to happen. He also urged people to get involved in the consultation process and to use local councillors to air any concerns.

“The whole point of the regeneration is to get the town upgraded so people come because they want to be there rather than going to Bury or Norwich,” he said.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be grasped by the people of Thetford. There are going to be conflicts, even amongst yourselves, but we have to try to balance that based on the majority view which is why we encourage you to use the consultation document.”

He went on to say the quantity of houses was needed to cope with changing and increasing demand, but said the aim was for those people to then work in and around Thetford in order to avoid it becoming a “domitory town”.

In a show of hands, the meeting, organised by Croxton Road Community Association, ended with just a smattering of people who believed the development was needed.

Speaking afterwards, chair of the association Ian Dixon said: “Any new housing consultation is bound to be a contentious subject but I wanted to show we’re willing to listen to what people have got to say and prove to the officials we’re willing to get them in and listen to them.”

People can view questions and answers raised at the meeting on the Moving Thetford Forward Website The Croxton Road Community Association meets on the first Monday of each month at the Church of the Nazarene Hall at 7.30pm. People are able to air their views and concerns during the first half an hour.