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The future of Thetford revealed? Have your say on plans for 5,000 new homes, employment, schools and playing fields in the town

PUBLISHED: 11:48 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:06 28 March 2014

Thetford housing plan. Photo: Supplied

Thetford housing plan. Photo: Supplied

Supplied

D-day for a transformational 25-year project which developers say will change the face of Thetford, creating homes, jobs, schools and community spaces, is approaching.

Road dualling will also pay dividends

The proposals to transform Thetford come as the town expects to reap substantial dividends from the A11 dualling project, which is due to be completed by winter of this year. Campaigners had fought for decades for the road to be completed, and welcomed the 2011 announcement of funding for the scheme to upgrade the road to dual-carriageway standard between the Fiveways Roundabout at Barton Mills near Mildenhall and the southern roundabout of the Thetford bypass, and create a 3.6-mile bypass of the village of Elveden.

Speaking in October 2011, just before preliminary work was due to begin, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “I think it’s terrific news and the sooner we get that road fully functional the better. We need new businesses, and growth to our current businesses in Thetford and further afield, and this news is really fantastic. I think the importance of a physical presence is huge because businesses will be able to start making plans knowing the road is going to happen.”

The Thetford Sustainable Urban Extension plan (SUE) promises to bring 5,000 homes, 19.5 hectares of employment land, three new schools, playing fields, upgraded access and a host of other features over the next quarter of a century.

If delivered, the project would also see the developers pay nearly £157m in Section 106 contributions to local authorities.

An outline planning application from the Kilverstone Estate, The Crown Estate and Pigeon Limited will go under the microscope at a special meeting of Breckland Council’s planning committee at the Carnegie Rooms in Thetford next Friday, April 4.

The council is eager for the public to make their voices heard for an application which is thought to be the largest in its 40 year history.

Areas in Thetford where there are proposals in place to build 5000 homes. Areas in Thetford where there are proposals in place to build 5000 homes.

Rob Walker, Breckland Council Assistant Director of Commissioning, said: “This outline planning application is one of the largest ever dealt with by the council, and is a very significant one for Thetford.

“We have arranged for the meeting to be held in the Carnegie Rooms so that everyone who wishes to attend and listen to the debate can do so.”

If approved, the SUE will take up 285 hectares (704 acres) of land to the north of Thetford, bordered by Joe Blunt’s Lane, the A11 bypass, Kilverstone Road and Mundford Road. The development lies within the parishes of Kilverstone to the east of Norwich Road, and Croxton to the west.

Work on the land would be likely to begin within the next three years, with the whole project to be delivered in five phases.

The meeting - how to get involved

The planning committee meeting to discuss the Sustainable Urban Extension will take place next Friday.

Due to the size and significance of the plans, Breckland Council has decided to hold the meeting in Thetford at the Carnegie Rooms in Cage Lane.

It will start at 10am and members of the public will have the chance to address the committee. It is expected to last into the afternoon.

Those wishing to speak should contact Heather Burlingham on 01362 656212 or heather.burlingham@capita.co.uk in advance of the meeting and by 5pm on Tuesday, April 1 at the latest.

The meeting will see presentations from applicants Pigeon and one from an officer from Breckland Council’s planning department.

Following the presentations, and representations from relevant authorities and stakeholders, committee members will discuss the merits of the application.

They will then come to a decision on whether outline planning permission should be approved, and the nature of any conditions to be placed on the work.

Each phase would need full planning permission from Breckland, with certain conditions required to be in place before development could proceed, such as necessary infrastructure.

Pigeon expects that an average of 380 homes a year would be built if development begins in 2014.

For example, phase one of the project would see 1,058 dwellings built, one primary school, two-and-a- half acres of park land and an acre of allotments.

Drainage, electricity and gas infrastructure, as well as improved road and pedestrian access, would be included.

Section 106 contributions totalling just under £157m will be paid to Breckland Council, to be distributed to other agencies and authorities, including Norfolk County Council and Highways Agency.

That figure is broken down into a series of payments which include £19.2m for primary and pre-school education provision, £33m for utility provision and waste management, and £66m for transport infrastructure.

The SUE project is the latest large-scale scheme to be developed in the Thetford area since the town was given Growth Point Status in 2006.

A new bus station, revamped Riverside area and overhauled town centre are all expected by 2026.

Thetford Academy, the town’s only secondary school, re-opened this year in a new £19m building.

The town is also expected to reap substantial dividends from the A11 dualling project, which is due to be completed by winter of this year.

Sylvia Armes, Breckland councillor for Thetford and planning committee member, said it was essential that members of the public were involved in Friday’s meeting.

“The whole community has to have a say because they have so much to offer. I would like to see people come and ask questions and contribute.

“I know there are a few concerns about the scheme, and I have some reservations myself, but we can go through this one step at a time in terms of the phases and it’s going to take some really hard thinking,” she said.

A report sent to committee members outlines details of the plans. It also includes fears from residents about a range of issues.

These include objections to the high level of housing, the effect on the stone curlew, an increased fear of crime, traffic congestion and a

negative impact on Thetford Town Centre.

Major concerns about how the development would imbalance Thetford – with a surfeit of investment in the north of the town, leaving the south behind in relative terms – have been raised by individuals and groups including Croxton Parish Council, the Thetford Society and ward councillor, Robert Childerhouse.

James Buxton, chairman of Pigeon, said that the developers

had attempted to tackle these

fears during consultation.

“Of course, with a project this size we have encountered concerns but I believe the development has strong support locally.

“The project will be a benefit in a number of ways and this is going to help Thetford in a number of ways,” he said.

What do you think of the scheme? Let us know by emailing reporter Andrew Fitchett on andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

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