Thetford residents call for referendum

People in Thetford have called for a referendum amid discontent over proposed changes within the town.

Plans to move the bus station from its riverside site to Minstergate have caused upset among residents who have questioned the suitability of the new area. Plans for a town-centre forum, which would be part of the Thetford Academy, and a proposal for 6,000 new homes have also caused concern.

Although a number of consultations have been held by Breckland Council as part of the Moving Thetford Forward programme, a significant proportion of attendees feared many decisions were a foregone conclusion.

Speaking at a Thetford Town Council meeting, the leader of the Thetford Labour Party, Dennis Sully, said: 'We believe any referendum should be carried out by the town council and we request a referendum to keep the bus station at the Anchor site with improved facilities.

'What's upset lots of people is we've had these public consultations and we've got nowhere and nobody listens to what we've got to say. We're told by Breckland what's going to happen.'

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He estimated the cost of a referendum to be around �5,000, although Conservative town councillor for the Guildhall ward, and district councillor, Robert Kybird put the figure at around �20,000.

The idea would be to hold the vote next year, possibly at the same time as local elections in May.

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Stuart Wilson, chairman of the Thetford Society's environmental committee, who was present at the meeting and supported the referendum idea, said: 'The issues Dennis has raised are still up in the air and I think we need a further picture of what's going on here.

'I know a lot of people are wondering about the infrastructure around the houses and because of the constraints of the town I do believe the houses are going to be difficult to deliver. We need to discuss it all further.'

The Labour town councillor for the Saxon ward, Terry Jermy, said the request was indicative of the way people felt in the town.

'I think the point that's been put across is relevant to the people of Thetford who've attended a number of consultations only to find they're opinions have not been taken into account,' he said.

'I welcome the fact people are looking to the town council for the leadership and I like to think the town council would chose to lead.'

Mr Kybird added: 'I see this as a response to the lack of control Thetford people feel they have over their own destiny and to that extent I would welcome a referendum.

'I do, however, have concerns over what is supposed to happen fro the outcome. If the referendum comes out against the site of the bus station it would be open to the district to say that they've put time and money into this and that they've not got an alternative proposal, so they will move away to Dereham or Swaffham or somewhere else.'

But Conservative town councillor for the Guildhall ward Derek Mortimer was strongly against the idea of a referendum.

'I think it's a tragedy to want to have something altered which has been on the books for more than two years,' he said. 'There has been more than ample time to proceed with a referendum.'

Under the 1972 Local Government Act, parish councils in England can vote to request their district council to hold a referendum on any issue of concern to the local parish. At least 10 people must be present at a meeting where a formal motion must be put forward and a vote taken.

Once the parish council has voted in favour, the district council has to carry out the referendum. In this case, any further action is yet to be taken by Thetford Town Council. The result of any referendum would not be legally binding.

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