Thetford estates 'feel abandoned'

THE perception of scores of householders living in Thetford is one of abandonment and frustration with a lack of amenities in both the immediate neighbourhoods and the town centre.

THE perception of scores of householders living in Thetford is one of abandonment and frustration with a lack of amenities in both the immediate neighbourhoods and the town centre.

A consultation carried out earlier this year took people living on the Abbey, Barnham Cross and Redcastle estates and aimed to find out what their perceptions of living there were, what was good about it and what should be improved in the short and medium term and by 2010.

Carried out by the Keystone Development Trust, on behalf of Flagship Housing Group, the consultation collected data through questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, public meetings and online and discovered a variety of issues on each estate.

Results showed that people living on Barnham Cross were most concerned with the development of the Pine Close shop area and parking and traffic issues on the estate.

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Meanwhile, the Abbey neighbourhood prioritised the provision and maintenance of parks, play areas and greens and on the Redcastle Estate respondents highlighted a range of issues, mainly concerned to maintenance of the estate as a whole. Traffic and parking issues were also highlighted, along with antisocial behaviour.

Thousands of people answered the West Thetford 2020 Community Consultation in May, and the results will be used to help shape the town of the future. Thetford has been given so-called Growth Point Status and a wide range of improvements are proposed as part of the expansion plans.

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Neil Stott, chief executive at Keystone Development Trust, said the charity also looked back at results of consultations over the past 10 to 15 years and said: “What was a little alarming was what people perceived hadn't changed and a sense of abandonment. I think it's disappointing because a lot of hard work is going on but it shows there's still a lot more to do.”

The executive summary, which gave an overview of the results, said previous research had shown many of the issues felt by current neighbourhoods were present 10 years ago, and that progress had been slow or in some cases non-existent with the same issues arising repeatedly over many years.

These included antisocial behaviour, a lack of youth activities, traffic and, again, abandonment by public agencies.

Across the estates a need for activities for youngsters was emphasised and was seen as having the potential to alleviate related issues such as antisocial behaviour, and there was a feeling that more shops and leisure and health facilities were needed across the whole of Thetford.

Stuart Wright, Thetford town councillor for the Saxon Ward, said: “I think the most cynical of us would say it's another consultation and nothing will happen, but it's a necessary evil to get the funding these days. Things need to be done pretty soon.”

Laura Handford, business growth programme manager at Flagship Housing, said the next step would be to put together a raft of projects and apply for funding.

She added: “There's been an awful lot of consultation in Thetford and not a lot of action and delivery and we're very keen to see this through. It needs a joint approach and support from all strategic partners.”

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