Council buys disused building to regenerate town's riverfront

The Riversdale building in Thetford, pictured in September 2018

The Riversdale building in Thetford, pictured in September 2018 - Credit: Google

A disused building in Thetford could soon be given a new lease of life after the district council agreed to buy it as part of its long term plans to revive the town's riverfront.

Breckland Council’s executive member for people and projects, Paul Hewett, said the purchase of the town’s Riversdale building, on Tanner Street, was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to regenerate the area. 

The council has been attempting to revitalise the town's river corridor through a range of projects - including the removal last year of an unsightly, former floating restaurant boat from the Little Ouse

The purchase of the Riversdale building, located at the confluence of the Thet and Little Ouse, marks the latest stage of this vision. 

The building had previously been used to provide community and voluntary space for local groups and businesses, but a council report described it as having, in the last two years, “fallen into some disrepair which has caused the owner to close it and remove any occupiers”.

It said a planning assessment had “confirmed that a range of different uses, including retail, restaurant and leisure uses, as well as residential, alongside complementary commercial uses… are likely to be acceptable in principle”.

Mr Hewett said the purchase could lead to the building’s removal at some point in the future, but in the short term, it would be leased back to its current owners. 

Breckland councillor Paul Hewett.
Photo: Breckland Council

Breckland Council’s Conservative executive member for people and projects, Paul Hewett - Credit: Archant Ltd.

The council already owns land on either side of the building.

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Conservative councillor Jane James said the river was “the jewel in Thetford’s crown” and urged her fellow members’ to approve the building’s purchase. 

Jane James, councillor on Thetford Town Council. Picture: Norfolk Conservatives.

Conservative councillor Jane James - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Labour councillor Mike Brindle said that he was not opposed to the purchase in principle, but raised concerns about whether the footpath between the building and the river would remain accessible into the future.

He also asked for assurances that adequate parking would be provided for the building’s future use. 

Mike Brindle, town councillor for Thetford. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Labour councillor Mike Brindle - Credit: Norfolk County Council

An officer said the council’s aim was not to take away anything the public currently enjoy and that consideration would be given to parking in the design of the building’s future use.

Independent councillor Roger Atterwill said he was disappointed by the council’s intention of getting planning permission for a future use and then selling the building on to a developer, because it would leave the council with less control over the building’s future. 

Breckland councillor and Swanton Morley Parish Council chairman, Roger Atterwill, is concerned about

Breckland councillor and Swanton Morley Parish Council chairman, Roger Atterwill. - Credit: Breckland District Council

The officer replied that the council would still exert control over what happens to the building through the sale contract it signs with a developer. 

A majority of councillors voted in favour of releasing £630,000 for the building’s purchase and to design a scheme for its future development - a process estimated to take between three and five years.