Let our town go forward, officals say

Moving Thetford Forward officials hope to “draw a line” under discontent about regeneration in the town following the results of a parish poll next month.

The poll, to be held on August 9, will ask whether people support proposals to relocate Thetford’s bus station from its current site on Bridge Street to one on Minstergate.

The scheme is part of wider regeneration plans which could see the town’s Anchor site transformed with shops, cafes, a hotel and cinema, but there has been some objection in the town from those who feel moving the bus station to the Minstergate site is unsuitable.

The issue has created huge debate in the town and the Times has had a bumper mailbag of letters from readers.

Speaking following the latest Moving Thetford Forward (MTF) meeting, board member Neil Stott said he hoped that following the poll, plans could move forward with support from people in the town.

“My feeling, and many of the board members, was it’s been consulted on already and it’s been through the democratic process,” he said. “It’s my feeling it’s now time to get it done. Something has to happen on that site. It’s a key regeneration draw and if decisions aren’t taken we will lose business opportunities.

“The key word here is consultation. We listen to what we’ve seen but we reserve the right to make a decision.

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“I feel very strongly due process has been followed and there has been support and what we’d like to do is draw a line under all this.” The parish poll will go ahead under the 1972 Local Government Act which says parish councils in England can vote to request their district council to hold a referendum on any issue of concern to the local parish.

The decision to hold the referendum was voted on earlier this month, with an overwhelming majority.

People will be asked to vote yes or no in response to the question: “Do you want the bus station to move from its current site at the Anchor to the site on St Nicholas Street?”

MTF Growth Programme Manager, Kevin Ward, said there was a fear amongst MTF board members that opportunities could be lost if support from the people of Thetford is not garnered.

“Basically the poll came to our attention the Tuesday before the meeting,” he said. “We had the latest graphics of the bus station and the general feeling was everyone still supports both projects going forward and we should really just be getting on with them.

“I think one thing that came out clearly was that board members were very aware that we’ve got so many people wanting to invest in the town and carry it forward but we have a public negativity which may put people off coming here.

“If we keep going down this route we will scare business off. We’re trying to make Thetford the destination of choice.”

Meanwhile, MTF meetings from September onwards will be open to the public following a decision taken by the board at the last meeting.

Mr Stott added: “People have made some assumptions about transparency and the board felt it was time for some changes.”