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Save our Heritage: Our campaign to protect Thetford's historic conservation area

PUBLISHED: 14:21 09 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:17 09 December 2015

The Thetford Society want Breckland and Norfolk County Council to start paying attention to repar work carried out in the town's conservation areas.  Dennis Sully, Cllr Mike Brindle and Stuart Wright

The Thetford Society want Breckland and Norfolk County Council to start paying attention to repar work carried out in the town's conservation areas. Dennis Sully, Cllr Mike Brindle and Stuart Wright

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

Today sees the launch of the Save our Heritage campaign, an effort to stop the neglect of Thetford's conservation area.

What the councils say

Breckland Council

A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “Breckland is committed to working with its partners to protect all heritage assets in the district, including listed buildings, conservation areas and scheduled monuments.

“Working within the remit laid down by central government, the council supports owners and other custodians to maintain, conserve and, where applicable, improve heritage assets, and ensures planning applications involving heritage assets are in compliance with the relevant legislation.”

Thetford Town Council

Maurice Howard, clerk, said: “Our amenities committee has been looking at a heritage policy for street furniture.

“We have requested details from county on what their policy is, and they will be discussed at the next amenities meeting in a view to understanding where we can go from that point on.”

Norfolk County Council

A Norfolk County Council Highway Engineer, said: “We welcome efforts to preserve and enhance the historic centre of Thetford and are keen to do what we can within funding constraints. After the Thetford Society highlighted a number of concerns to us recently we have arranged to carry out a joint inspection of the town with chairman Stuart Wright. We are confident we can address some of the issues raised, although some are not our responsibility.”

“The first thing we are looking to do is ensure recent temporary bitumen reinstatements are replaced with appropriate paving slabs, and where funding limits the purchase of heritage streetlights we will make sure our streetlight columns are painted black to best fit in with the conservation area.”

Prompted by the Thetford Society, the campaign is hoping to raise awareness of our town centre’s decline, and persuade our local authorities to act.

English Heritage’s most recent Heritage at Risk report, released in October, revealed that Thetford’s Conservation Area is the only conservation area in Norfolk and Suffolk to be assigned the trend of ‘deteriorating significantly’.

Some 6pc of the country’s 8,000 conservation areas are designated as being at risk - inlcuding Thetford.

And the body has made it clear in the past that the cause of this decline falls into two categories - what owners do to their buildings, and what councils do - or fail to do - to streets, pavements, parks and public spaces.

For councils, that means adhering to clearly defined rules about maintaining the historic character of an area, by considering issues such as street furniture, repairs to listed buildings and cleaning up graffiti.

Sadly, according to the Thetford Society, Breckland Council, Norfolk County Council and Thetford Town Council have only paid “lip service” to these rules.

Stuart Wright, society chairman, said it had worked closely with county council engineers who have referenced the conservation area, only to carry out work which flouted protocols.

“All three tiers of local government are guilty of ignoring the designation with the removal of heritage lampposts, inconsistent and inappropriate street furniture, the gradual loss of black painted street furniture in the town centre, temporary fixes to pavements, poor repairs to listed buildings and the refusal to remove graffiti.

“The first thing that needs sorting is future works. When we are doing something new, we should immediately think ‘it’s a conservation area and what guidelines do we need to adhere to?’

“The figures show that nearly 95pc of other places make an effort to keep to the rules, but we have our head in the sand because no agency seems to take responsibility for it,” he said.

Can you make a contribution? We want residents and businesses to get behind the Save our Heritage campaign in any way they can. Email tbw.news@archant.co.uk if you can help.

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