‘Very inspirational’ - Town learns lessons from Gloucestershire counterpart

Cirencester (left) and Dereham (right)

Cirencester (left) may have some lessons for Dereham (right) - Credit: Google/Ian Burt

A group of residents and councillors in a Norfolk town are looking to Cirencester, in Gloucestershire, as they plan to improve their town centre and its historic marketplace.

Earlier this year, the Dereham Town plan working group was jointly established by the town council and the aboutDereham partnership to agree a set of priorities that they hope will inform Breckland district council’s shared plan to improve the area’s market towns.

The group has said that improving the marketplace is their top priority, and are looking at what can be learned from similar improvement schemes elsewhere in the UK.

Chief executive officer of Cirencester Town Council Andrew Tubb spoke to the working group this week about Cirencester’s success in modernising their marketplace.

An old view of Cirencester's town centre

Cirencester's town centre as it used to be, pictured before a pedestrianised area was reclaimed in an improvement scheme. - Credit: aboutDereham/Google

An aboutDereham spokesperson said: “There are lots of parallels in the two towns - over-congested narrow streets, marketplaces with too much two-way traffic, buses idling with engines running – all leading to noise, dirt, fumes and pollution damage.

“Over time, Cirencester’s markets had declined, reducing in number and much smaller – this will all sound very familiar to Dereham residents.

“Cirencester’s main aim in pushing forward with their town centre improvement scheme was to reduce the volume of traffic and that’s what we’d like to do here.

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“However, Dereham has much to learn, having had a similar experience to Cirencester, where some plans date back to the 1960’s but with no schemes ever having been implemented.”

Cirencester's town centre in 2018

Cirencester, pictured in 2018, after a pedestrianised area had been reclaimed for the town's marketplace. - Credit: Google

Mike Webb, Chairman of aboutDereham noted: “The one key guarantee of Cirencester’s success was to get the agreement of all key stakeholders before starting.

“Now we have an active working group to push the improvements forward and with Breckland’s shared plan beginning to take shape, I believe we’re in a good place to move forward.”

Dereham market place. Picture: Ian Burt

The aboutDereham group said that improving Dereham's "over-congested" marketplace was their top priority. - Credit: Ian Burt

Cirencester’s scheme created a pedestrianised area protected by bollards, around which traffic can move slowly.

Mr Tubb said that markets have increased in popularity and footfall has increased five-fold. 

He explained that while local traders had been concerned they would lose business, the opposite has been the case, with visitor numbers up significantly. 

“Change was inevitable and the trick was to change in the right direction,” said Mr Tubb. 

Stuart Green, 27, the new mayor of Dereham, and believed to be the youngest they have ever had.

Mayor Stuart Green said the lessons to be learnt from Cirencester were "very inspirational". - Credit: Archant 2020

Dereham mayor Stuart Green said: “Cirencester had faced very similar issues to us and listening to their experience and successes was very inspirational.”