Locals fear they may miss out on vital funds if a developer is spared from paying for land and community projects as part of a major revamp project. 

Breckland Council has signed an agreement with the housing association Flagship Group, which suggests land around the Abbey Estate in Thetford will be given away for free to the company.

It has led to anger among those living on the estate, which has been earmarked for a £250m regeneration that will create 460 additional homes on top of the 1,000 already there.

Hundreds of homes would also be demolished before being rebuilt for the revamp.Eastern Daily Press: Breckland Council-owned land could be given away to the developers for freeBreckland Council-owned land could be given away to the developers for free (Image: Fiona Kiane)

To show commitment to the project, Breckland Council and Norfolk County Council have signed a memorandum of understanding.

This includes a clause that agrees to "transfer any public land, at nil value" and also to exclude the developer from paying any Section 106 payments or a 'community infrastructure levy' - funds which could be used towards creating nearby playgrounds, schools, libraries and allotments.

READ MORE: Fears estate revamp will lead to shortage of school spaces

While not a legally binding document, it has prompted fears it is a signal of intent from the two authorities, and an angry response from some in the town.

It comes just weeks after a similar uproar in Norwich after the city council decided to let the developer behind the Anglia Square regeneration off from a £2.3m CIL payment that could have

funded community projects. This has now been brought back to the council after critics demanded a rethink.

Eastern Daily Press: Terry Jermy, leader of the Labour group at Breckland CouncilTerry Jermy, leader of the Labour group at Breckland Council (Image: Archant)


Terry Jermy, Thetford county councillor, said: "There is already a lack of infrastructure, such as schools and health services across Thetford, including the Abbey Estate.

"Building this number of homes will lead to a big increase in people living in the area, putting more pressure on services without any new money coming in.

"If Flagship is not going to be making any contributions then people have the right to ask, how will this be paid for?

"It is very concerning and we urge the council to think again."

READ MORE: Locals voice opposition to estate regeneration plans

Eastern Daily Press: A map of land on the Abbey Estate owned by Breckland CouncilA map of land on the Abbey Estate owned by Breckland Council (Image: Breckland Council)

Fiona Kiane, a homeowner who has lived on the estate for 23 years, is furious that the much-loved green spaces could be lost without any compensation for the local community.

The parcels of land have long been used by residents for barbeque get-togethers in the summer and they are home to an abundance of wildlife.

Eastern Daily Press: Abbey Estate residents gathered at the Breckland Council offices to voice their concerns about the development in OctoberAbbey Estate residents gathered at the Breckland Council offices to voice their concerns about the development in October (Image: Owen Sennitt)

"We are not talking about a little bit of backyard, we are talking about land the size of a football pitch," said the 57-year-old.

"I don't agree with it at all and it feels underhanded."

Eastern Daily Press: The Abbey Estate was built in the late 1960sThe Abbey Estate was built in the late 1960s (Image: Newsquest)


Flagship is one of the biggest housing associations in the region and made a turnover of £231.9m and generated an operating profit of £83.3m in 2021/2022.

It says it reinvests any profit made into building and improving affordable homes and that the project will create "long-term, meaningful change" to the community.

It says it will create a new park, community centre and enhanced green spaces as part of the plans.

A spokesman said: "We completely understand how important the green spaces are to the community, and the plan reflects this. The improvements will allow residents to embrace the Abbey’s natural environment."

Eastern Daily Press: Autumn on the Abbey EstateAutumn on the Abbey Estate (Image: Fiona Kiane)


A significant amount of land on the Abbey Estate is owned by Breckland Council, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Sam Chapman-Allen, Breckland Council’s leader, has said no decisions have been made yet and that both matters will be addressed when a planning application is put forward.

He said: “Breckland Council has bold ambitions for Thetford’s current and future residents, as described in our Future Breckland vision.

"While we are open to considering the benefits that regeneration could bring, in particular to the Abbey Estate, we have not taken any decision regarding the transfer of council-owned land or any potential transfer in the future."

Eastern Daily Press: Sam Chapman-Allen, leader of Breckland CouncilSam Chapman-Allen, leader of Breckland Council (Image: Breckland District Council)