Thetford bus station to be moved

Thetford’s bus station will be relocated and the existing site transformed following a unanimous vote by officials, despite unease among some residents.

Members of the Moving Thetford Forward board met last week, along with specially invited members of Thetford Town Council, to discuss whether or not to keep the bus station in its current location.

It followed a parish poll carried out in Thetford earlier this year which asked voters whether they would like to see the bus station moved from Bridge Street to a site on Minstergate, which MTF officials had proposed, or to keep it in its current location.

With a turnout of 14pc, 81pc voted not to move the station.

Speaking after the meeting, board members said they had taken this into account but after analysing two alternative layouts which depicted how the bus station could look if regenerated alongside the Anchor Hotel on its current site, had decided to proceed with their original plan.

Highways network manager at Norfolk County Council and non-voting MTF board member, Tim Edmunds, said: “We’ve tried to prove the site could work as a bus station and tried to drive buses in and out on computers.

“With layout one, we can only make one bus bay work. If we fiddled around with it we could get four to work but we need five. With layout two, two buses worked, and we could get three to work, but to get five you displace everything else off the site.”

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This means the bus station will now be moved to Minstergate, where the old cosy carpets building would also be brought back to use, and the Bridge Street site regenerated with shops, cafes, a hotel, cinema and waterfront area with seating.

Voting MTF board member and chief executive of Keystone Development Trust, Neil Stott, said it was important for everybody to now get behind the regeneration project.

“Like many other towns Thetford is dying on its feet - the key thing is the regeneration capacity,” he said. “We’ve been through this for the past three years and have gone through all the options. This board had made the decision and now it’s about implementing that decision. “Frankly, in my opinion, it’s time to get on with it.”

Leader of Breckland Council, and voting MTF board member, William Nunn, added: “For Thetford to regenerate going forwards and for this scheme to work and the town to prosper, the people have to get behind the scheme. “There are some really good things about to happen and at the moment we have the chance to capitalise on that.”

Talks will now continue with businesses which have shown an interest in the riverside site and a planning application drawn up. It is estimated works could take 15 months to complete, although it is not yet known when they will begin.

A planning application is currently with Norfolk County Council for the Minstergate regeneration, which will take nine months to complete, once work begins. The new bus station will be completed by the end of 2013.

• It was also decided to appoint a new panel which will meet monthly in place of the MTF board and be tasked with scrutinising past and future decisions. This will be open to the public.

The current board will continue to meet twice a year.