Moving Thetford Forward - has it been a success?
14:58 01 September 2014
It’s a scheme that promised to regenerate Thetford, support economic development and promote the town.
Set up in the wake of the town being given Growth Point status, the Moving Thetford Forward (MTF) scheme was given £7m in Government funding in 2008.
While Breckland Council has been the main accountable authority for the project, the spending of that money has been decided upon by the MTF board, a combination of representatives and stakeholders from councils, volunteer groups, business, the NHS, and housing associations.
That £7m also acted as a catalyst for further investment, with around £25m eventually being drummed up by MTF, the majority of which came through a £16m package from the Home and Communities Agency (HCA) to improve housing estates.
Just £450,000 remain from that £25m pot, with more than 24 projects completed and eight continuing.
MTF has not been without its detractors, with squabbles about how the board should be managed and complaints from members of the public that they have not been engaged with the decision-making process.
But Rob Walker, Breckland Council’s assistant director for community, said the project had been a success, with input from various stakeholders proving invaluable.
“We feel that if you look at the projects which have been completed, they have gone well. People have got round the table, many of whom are elected representatives speaking for residents, and allocated the money in the way they see fit,” he said.
But while projects have been delivered successfully in Breckland’s eyes, MTF’s two highest profile initiatives have come under fire.
The yet to be named town centre square development in King Street cost £650,000 and has been met with widespread disapproval, from residents and business owners.
Plans for a new bus interchange, in Minstergate, have also been criticised for a lack of public engagement and fears over health and safety.
Mr Walker responded: “I think we recognise there are criticisms but in every major project there are tensions. The key question is ‘have we delivered something that is usable for local residents?’
“I think in the case of the town centre square, we have done that. I also think if you ask the businesses around that square about it, they wanted the area regenerated and would say it has been a benefit to their business.
“In terms of the bus station, freeing up the Riverside site will be of massive benefit to Thetford. Norfolk County Council are leading the project and have identified what they believe to be the appropriate site.”
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