Chance to influence ambitious Thetford expansion plans

The people of Thetford have been urged to grasp the chance to influence an ambitious blueprint outlining their town's biggest expansion for decades.

A five-week consultation will start next Monday on the draft Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) which is intended to guide planning policies and shape the town's development during the next 15-20 years.

Breckland Council's vision is to create 'a thriving 21st century market town' by providing 5,000 new homes, 5,000 jobs, 40 hectares of employment land and improved education, health and transport services.

It is the largest planned expansion of the town since the 1960s, when the population trebled as a result of the government's London overspill house-building policy.

The urban extension centres on a large tract of land between the northern boundary of Thetford and the A11, owned by the Kilverstone and Crown Estates – who are jointly promoting the plot for development.

But the plan also contains ideas to rejuvenate the town centre and existing estates, enhance historic and natural features, while improving public transport links between all elements of the plan.

Along with the housing and business developments, the proposals include:

Most Read

?Three new primary schools and land set aside north of Joe Blunt's Lane to allow for expansion of the Thetford Academy.

?A new health centre with facilities for eight GPs and three dentists.

?Land set aside between Joe Blunt's Lane and the A11 for a new railway station within the urban extension, between 2016-2026.

?A new bus interchange on land identified between St Nicholas Street, Minstergate and London Road, including renovation of the former Cosy Carpets building.

?Upgrades to all five junctions with the A11 bypass.

In his foreword to the consultation document, council leader William Nunn says: 'Thetford has been given an opportunity to be transformed. It will not get this chance again for decades, so it is important that we get it right.

'The final proposals in the TAAP will affect the lives of everyone in Thetford. It will help regenerate the town, it will decide where new homes and jobs should go, and it will set out what facilities and infrastructure are needed.'

David Spencer, the council's principal planning policy officer, said there was an expectation that most of the costs of the projects would be met by developers.

He said while the final dualling of the A11, agreed by ministers last year, would be an important factor in sustaining Thetford's growth, the initial phases of development were not dependant on it.

'The whole rationale is that the new people and the new businesses are going to support Thetford and not just get onto the A11 to do their shopping or work elsewhere,' he said. 'But over time, the 5,000 jobs we want to create will be inherently linked to the dualling of the A11.'

Proposals for the northern urban extension were first seen at a public consultation last year. While there was support for many of the ideas, some concerns were raised over the density of the new homes, the provision of jobs for the new inhabitants, and that the development site was too detached from the town centre.

Town mayor Pauline Quadling said: 'It is very, very important that the people of Thetford make their views known – and it is just as important that they are not ignored. It is our town and we should all have our say on what happens to it. We are proud of where we live, but we need to have more shops and attractions for the people who live here and visit here.'