Dereham must work together to produce a vision for its future, says MP George Freeman
- Credit: Hilary Gauthier
The whole vast spectrum of people who live, work or even go to school in Dereham need to contribute to the town's vision for its future development, said MP George Freeman at a 'summit' this evening.
Mr Freeman, MP for mid Norfolk, called the meeting of community and business leaders at the town's Memorial Hall to hear what the town council envisaged Dereham in 20 years time would look like and what the community believes should be its priorities.
Town council clerk Tony Needham presented a scheme the authority, with town planning and transport experts, had put together for its emerging Neighbourhood Plan to show how Dereham had the potential to resolve some of its issues by developing land to the south eastern corner with a new link road from Yaxham Road to the A47, 2000 new homes, employment areas and open green spaces.
'The piecemeal development of the past has led to the traffic problems,' he said. 'Tavern Lane is a bottleneck but what is obvious to us is that at the eastern end of Dereham there is another crossing onto the A47 which is underused.'
Sarah Simpson, a professional transport planner who also lives in Dereham, said what the town needed was some strategic thought.
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'We need to think about how development can be used very successfully and thoughtfully, not just to solve the current problems, but how it can accommodate housing and jobs growth and leisure and shopping that the future residents will need and expect.'
But concerns were raised in the room about the proximity of the land the council had earmarked to the SSSI of Badley Moor and the flood plain of the River Tud with the potential for flooding, citing the problems experienced in Toftwood as evidence of badly thought out development.
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Roger Atterwill, chairman of Swanton Morley parish council, turned the town council's argument on its head by suggesting a better option would be to look to the north.
'I think we need to be very bold with what we are doing with Dereham,' he said.
'I think we need a north east link road, with a roundabout at Corners Nursery and a road round the back of the hospital, which could be a state-of-the-art medical facility, and come round by the football ground to the A47 there.
'There could be more housing and more potential land for employment.'
He said there would be a problem with sewage if the town was developed further to the south as he understood that Anglian Water was now looking to put a new pipeline in from the Dereham treatment works to Swanton Morley.
'I believe it is too expensive to go under the A47 to Mattishall which was the original plan,' he said.
He was backed up by John Carrick, from Hunters Hall in Swanton Morley, who said drainage issues in Dereham needed to be sorted before any more houses were built to cope with surface water run-off.
He added: 'We need to think now about the future of the Robertson Barracks in Swanton Morley because the MOD has scheduled to close the base in 2031. It has got some tremendous buildings on the site and lots of housing and is an ideal site for a major business hub.'
Dereham town mayor Phillip Duigan said the town badly needed more starter homes 'or we will become Codgerville', he said.
The meeting also heard that Breckland Council was close to completing its Local Plan but even if the town's Neighbourhood Plan was finalised afterwards it was not too late to force Breckland to review its adopted document.
Gordon Bambridge, chairman of Breckland's Local Plan working group, said he supported the town council in its work. But he warned: 'Dereham must not let it be a Dereham Town Council thing. It must include businesses or it will fail. It has to include the youth of the town - 350 children leave school every year and are chucked out into the world of work and they need jobs and houses. It has to include the environment, every aspect of Dereham from the Carnival to the church has to be involved.'
Mr Freeman concluded the meeting by suggesting a Dereham Plan Partnership was formed to take it further.
'I have a strong sense that the town and district needs to work together, that there is support for a new transport study, and support for looking at both options of north and south,' he said.
'We need to get everyone involved and think about using social media to get to the younger sectors of society.
'Planning does not have to be done to us, there is the chance to own the plan and celebrate it.'
* The town council held its first drop in session to view its Neighbourhood Plan proposal today but further sessions will be held on Friday, March 31 (10am to 2pm) and Wednesday, April 12 (3pm to 8pm) at the Memorial Hall. To find out more visit www.derehamtc.norfolkparishes.gov.uk.