A Norfolk town council meeting became the latest flashpoint in a series of national protests against plans for so-called 20-minute neighbourhoods.

Around 200 demonstrators descended on the Thetford Town Council gathering - which was not due to discuss the topic - as part of a growing wave of grassroots events against the policy.

The idea behind such neighbourhoods is to create areas of towns and cities where people can get to and from most services - like shops, healthcare, parks - with a 20-minute walk from their front door.

There are currently no firm plans for any such schemes in Norfolk, although the county council has said it will explore the creation of such districts.

Across the country, however, there is growing grassroots opposition to the policy, particularly online, where it has been linked to conspiracy theories that the concept will be used for 'climate lockdowns', with people forced to stay in their homes to protect the environment.

At Tuesday's meeting in Thetford, the estimated crowd of 200 people turned up after details of the council meeting were shared on social media.

Eastern Daily Press: f King's House home to Thetford Town Council.Photo: Angela Sharpef King's House home to Thetford Town Council.Photo: Angela Sharpe (Image: Archant © 2008)

It meant there were so many people present that the meeting had to be moved from the town hall to the nearby Thomas Paine Hotel - named after the 18th century, Thetford-born thinker known for his works on liberty and freedom.

The group - some of whom were said to be local and others from outside the town - used a section of the meeting for questions from the public to interrogate town councillors.

They demanded that the scheme was not adopted for the town and accused councillors of "not governing by consent".

Eastern Daily Press: Attleborough IMAGE: Mike PageAttleborough IMAGE: Mike Page (Image: Mike Page)

A member of the public, who said he was an ex-police officer, said the council had no right to introduce the scheme without a consultation.

The idea of a 20-minute neighbourhood for Norfolk was first raised at a County Hall meeting in December by Conservative member Lana Hempsall.

She proposed a motion, supported by 48 councillors, with none voting against, that the council work with other authorities and transport bosses to explore the creation of such districts in urban and rural areas.

Eastern Daily Press: The mayor of Thetford, Jane JamesThe mayor of Thetford, Jane James (Image: Jane James)

Jane James, the Thetford mayor and a Conservative county councillor, told the protestors that the motion was simply to gather evidence and explore whether such neighbourhoods could be a benefit.

In response, one protester said, “it doesn’t matter about evidence”.

“You govern by consent. Well, that consent is going. I will take it upon myself to ensure that the people of this town realise what is going on and you can’t stop me." 

He also suggested that if the council went “turncoat”, it would “end really badly for the council” before adding: “If you're not with us, we’re enemies.”

Ms James said: “I am all for having local services available for local people. I am not there to see people’s rights of movement restricted, that is not what this is about.

"If that was what it is about once the exploration has been done I will be against it because it is not right."

Eastern Daily Press: Protesters posterProtesters poster (Image: Facebook)

The council agreed to hold another meeting in the future with the county council representative, where residents' questions can be answered. 

Speaking after the meeting, Ms James confirmed there were no plans for Thetford or anywhere else in Norfolk to be part of a 20-minute trial, calling it an "embryonic idea".

"The motion was an opportunity to explore what they might mean and how it would benefit people," she said.

"It's about improving services in the local area, making them accessible to everyone.

"The positive thing about Tuesday's meeting was that people were able to articulate some of the concerns they have, we want to understand their fears and aspirations, what people do and don't want."

Such neighbourhoods have gained popularity in the United States, Australia and Scandinavia, with the concept that people can walk to and back from services within 20 minutes - 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back.

Opposition to them in the UK has grown in response to an ongoing trial to reduce car traffic in central Oxford.