Should historic town centre of Dereham be traffic-free?
15:48 20 April 2014
© Archant Norfolk 2014
Recent road closures during gas repair works in Dereham have prompted a debate over whether the town’s historic heart should be made permanently traffic-free.
National Grid’s six-week project to replace pipe-work started in February, temporarily closing one lane of the main road through the Market Place – generating conflicting opinions from people who live and work in the area.
Some shops and businesses reported a “devastating” impact on their takings, while other townspeople suggested the temporary single-lane layout actually made the Market Place more “people-friendly”.
During the work, Carol Stubbs, who runs Dereham News with husband Mark, estimated their business could have lost more than £2,000 in the first week.
But after the work was completed, Trevor Wood, of Fakenham Road in Hoe, said he had noticed that the traffic flow had improved while the one-way system was in place.
He added: “The free parking provision very near to our town centre is exceptional and the two weekly markets on the busiest days of the week demonstrate that parking in Market Place is not necessary; the extended closure of one lane recently also showed that two-way traffic through the area is neither essential nor desirable.”
Meanwhile, Philip Morton, of Neatherd Road in Dereham, advocated a fully traffic-free town centre.
He said: “I had just returned from a trip to Cracow (in Poland) where the centre is traffic-free with thriving restaurants, specialist shops and street entertainment.
“Giving priority to people rather than cars is increasingly the trend across other European towns and cities.
“We need to push for a similar vision to adapt to the numerous challenges confronting market centres.”
Bill Pound, whose Norfolk Images business is based on the Market Place, strongly disagreed with any form of pedestrianisation.
He said: “If you want a ghost town with even more empty shops then that’s the way to go, driving more people to the likes of Tesco, Morrison’s and other out-of-town shops.
“It would be a waste of public money to pedestrianise the Market Place when nobody would be around to walk there.”