Thetford site has not been forgotten - Council

OFFICIALS have moved to reassure people a riverside site in Thetford has not been forgotten and that work is ongoing.

OFFICIALS have moved to reassure people a riverside site in Thetford has not been forgotten and that work is ongoing.

The site off Bridge Street includes the boarded up Anchor Hotel and the bus station and plans have been mooted to transform the area into a new college, dubbed The Forum.

But Breckland Council has come under fire by the community in recent months for not preventing the Anchor Hotel, which it bought earlier this month, from deteriorating.

And concerns have been raised that work is not moving quickly enough to relocate the current bus station away from the area.

Now, both Breckland and Norfolk County Council have said talks have been going on behind the scenes and the scheme is moving forward.

Chairman of Moving Thetford Forward William Nunn said a meeting would be held on November 19 to talk in further detail about the scope of the development, what it may contain, and short term plans to produce a tangible result.

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Mr Nunn added: “Unfortunately the old hotel building is in a very sorry state. When we bought the site our immediate concern was to secure it to prevent further vandalism. Since that time there has been a lot of work going on in the background.

“Our vision is to create an educational facility and cultural hub for the town. Of course we have to be sure that the funding can be found to deliver a fitting building for Thetford and whilst this progresses we have committed funds to get us to detailed planning permission stage.

“We are very conscious that Thetford residents want to see progress but it is essential however that we take the time to get this right and there are complex issues which need to be addressed such as the archaeology of the site, assessing flood risk from the river and the ecology such as the possibility of bats roosting within the building.”

The riverside site is located in a conservation area, and although the Anchor Hotel was considered for listing by English Heritage in both 1991 and 2006, it was decided the building did not resemble its original state closely enough.

Negotiations are also ongoing to move the bus station and Norfolk County Council said its property services company, NPS, was looking at options for a five-bay bus station and interchange.

However, a spokesman added: “This is a complex site, not least because of Thetford's rich archaeology, so design options have to take this into account. Construction is not likely before late 2011.

“NPS' design options will be reported to Breckland District Council, as the lead authority in Moving Thetford Forward.”

Stuart Wright, chairman of the Thetford Society, was hesitant though about plans for a college with concerns the site was not big enough, and said parking would need to be found to replace that on riverside.

He added: “I think we have to reserve judgement until we see the plans but every day people are saying to me what's going on? “Thousands of people come to the town and all you can do is stand up and apologise for the state of the anchor.

“It's at a major gateway for the city and the more you tidy it up the better; even if we could just get the woodchip painted white and the weeds lifted.”

Mr Nunn said he would encourage people to report any concerns about the Anchor Hotel site to the council's Pride in Breckland team at or by ringing the 'Prideline' on 01362 853296.