‘Future Breckland’ giving people the chance to shape their district 

Artists impression of Dereham

How could Dereham look in the future? You can help shape it by taking part in the Future Breckland programme - Credit: Breckland Council

As we begin to emerge from what is hoped will be the worst of the pandemic, Breckland is looking to embrace a bright future. 

There are massive changes taking place in the way people live, work and prioritise their futures. Breckland is well-placed to be one of the country’s leading areas for positive and sustainable growth. This is good news for residents and businesses, as continued growth will create new and higher-paying jobs, while bolstering the already vibrant supply chain and supporting further investment from the public and private sectors. 

Breckland is already experiencing a business boom. Food production in the area has grown by a staggering 108% in recent years, positioning the district as a national leader in this field. It also leads the way in specialist agriculture, with three-times the number of specialists in the district compared with the rest of the UK. Meanwhile, advanced manufacturing and engineering remains a key business area for the district, with a number of expert companies clustered in the south of Breckland. 

With the dramatic rise in home-working caused by the pandemic, people have reassessed what’s important to them, with many prioritising access to quality, characterful towns and plenty of open space. In short, people want what Breckland offers. So it’s no surprise that Breckland – with its five historic market towns and low population density – has received significant investment attention in the past 18 months, with house price growth among the highest in the entire country. 

Shaping the future of Breckland together 

Breckland is embarking on one of the most ambitious planning exercises in its history – the ‘Future Breckland: Thriving People & Places’ Project. The programme will initially run until March 2022 and will give everybody a chance to have a say over what the district looks like over the coming years, developing specific plans for each of the five towns. Priority projects will be identified to tackle the challenges we face, while capitalising on the district's strengths. 

Recognising that a single organisation can’t deliver everything, the programme is being funded by Breckland Council but with an open invitation to local town councils, county council, community groups and other stakeholders to get involved. A unified approach will put the district will in pole-position to leverage new regional and national funding, which will be needed to make major improvements to benefit residents and attract new businesses to the area. 

Breckland Council. Picture: Ian Burt

Breckland Council's Future Breckland project will let you have your say about how the district looks in the coming years. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

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Breckland Council leader Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen commented: “The district is in an excellent position and has a lot going for it. We’re right in between Norwich and Cambridge, we are seeing good housing and business growth, and our residents enjoy a good quality of life. 

“Future Breckland is seeking to build on that by giving everybody the chance to say what they find most important, what we want to protect and enhance, and what we need to focus on addressing to take the next big step forward. 

“By agreeing a bold vision for our future, we can work together to deliver as much as possible as local councils, public sector partners and local businesses, while putting the district in the best possible position to bid for major new investment from central government and other sources. 

“This will drive us forward and help make sure Breckland continues to be a district where people and businesses can thrive as part of the new world.” 

The Future Breckland programme will focus on each of the five market towns and their surrounding areas over the course of a year. Dereham’s public engagement was held earlier in 2021 (see below), engagement events will be held in Watton and Swaffham over the summer, and people are set to be given an opportunity to share their views on Attleborough and Thetford’s futures towards the end of this year. 

Plans for each town will then be drawn up, before an overarching plan for the district is created around spring 2022. To find out more and have your say, go to www.breckland.gov.uk/Future-Breckland 

Breckland Council'e Paul Claussen with the Dereham Community Crafters

Cllr Paul Claussen, Executive Member for Economic Development and Growth and Dereham Breckland Councillors help launch the Dereham Community Crafters Yarn Bombing - Credit: Breckland Council

Creating innovative ways to help places thrive 

It’s not only big infrastructure changes that will help our towns and communities flourish. Smaller activities and community action are equally important. For example: 

New green initiatives like Sustainable Swaffham 
A bold commitment to make Swaffham one of Norfolk’s 
most environmentally-friendly towns, through a range of projects and activity. This includes plans for electric vehicle points and a water-bottle refill scheme. 

New public realm and lighting enhancements like the Thetford Rivers Programme

Local initiatives have funded the removal of unsafe trees and hedge areas to make this riverside area more accessible and useable. The installation of more street lighting and table tennis and chess tables encourage residents and visitors to explore the town centre and riverside walks. 

Shop front improvements, such as the investments on Watton High Street

With more than £300k of grant money being made available to local business owners to make investments in their frontages, from a lick of paint through to a completely new façade. 

New green spaces, such as the Ellenor Fenn Park

This new community garden in Dereham is being created by voluntary group aboutDereham, in partnership with Breckland Council and Dencora, and is funded by the government’s Pocket Park Scheme and Breckland Council. It will be a peaceful green space in the heart of the town, offering people a place to meet and hold a range of events and activities. 

Innovation grants to help businesses adapt, such as digital innovation in Attleborough

With almost 800 Breckland businesses now benefitting from support in digitising their offer to remain future proof. 

New activities in town centres, such as yarn bombing in Dereham 

Handmade mystery ‘yarn bombs’ have just appeared overnight in high street shop windows and on street furniture. The display of 
knitted creations is the work of Dereham Community Crafters, funded by Breckland Council. The project celebrates Dereham’s famous residents, and attracts visitors back to 
the high street. 

Five projects changing the face of Breckland 

Around £750m of private and public sector investment has already been committed to delivering a range of projects in Breckland. These are set to help springboard Breckland into a bright future. Here are just some to look out for: 

Swaffham’s heritage explosion 

Around £1m of national investment, events and conservation is being delivered in partnership between Breckland Council and Historic England. The ‘Heritage Action Zone’ programme will help protect the historic high street with the iconic Buttercross at its centre, while driving further investment into Swaffham’s historic buildings and encouraging visitors to the heart of one of England’s finest Georgian market towns. The district and town councils are also working on enhancing the leisure offer in the town. 

A deal could bring the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham back into use. Picture: Ian Burt

Swaffham could be transformed by the Future Breckland programme. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Attleborough’s sustainable growth programme 

The town has been earmarked for considerable growth in the coming years. Not only are a significant number of houses being built in the area, to help meet housing demand from the rising population, but plans are in place to create hundreds of new jobs too. In particular, down the road at Snetterton significant work is underway to unlock the potential of Snetterton Heath, so existing businesses can grow and new businesses can come in – creating fantastic job opportunities for Breckland residents. Within Attleborough, plans are being progressed to improve local leisure facilities, great news when so many leisure sites are under threat elsewhere in the country. 

Attleborough town hall. Picture: Archant

Attleborough's heritage makes is an appealing destination. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Watton’s high street reimagined 

Plans are being drawn which could see Watton’s high street completely transformed. The proposals would create new open spaces along the high street, in line with the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan. 

Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT

Watton high street could be radically changed as part of the Future Breckland initiative. Pictures: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Thetford’s urban revival 

Thetford continues to evolve, with extensive investment and regeneration happening both in the town centre and on its edge. A significant number of houses are to be built as part of the Kingsfleet development – bringing major new community resources – while the ongoing rejuvenation of the riverside is bringing in new businesses and enhancing the community assets. Meanwhile, Wayne Hemingway MBE, one of the UK's leading urban regeneration experts, has been supporting a bold and innovative new project to work with residents, public sector bodies, community groups, businesses, charities, and sports associations to define what's great about Thetford and develop proposals to promote the town further. 

The High Street and King Street in Thetford.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2016

The High Street and King Street in Thetford, where the urban renewal programme is to continue.

Dereham’s exciting proposals 
See above for the exciting proposals for the future of the town. 

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Dereham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Dereham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Breckland in numbers 

£750m of private and public sector investment is already being delivered in the district 

7,000 new jobs created over recent years 

2x job growth in Breckland, compared to the Norfolk average 

510 businesses launched in Breckland in recent years 

£50m of business support provided by the Council in response to the pandemic 

399.7 square miles – Breckland is one of the largest local authority areas in England, making the district home to some BIG opportunities! 

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