Bus interchange options

Support for a controversial bus interchange in Dereham Market Place or hopes of getting the historic market back into the town centre could be dashed.

Support for a controversial bus interchange in Dereham Market Place or hopes of getting the historic market back into the town centre could be dashed.

That was the message to local people this week as the debate hots up over the best future plans for buses in Dereham.

There are an estimated 170 bus movements in and out of the heart of the town every day and discussions have been going on for many years to get a station or interchange.

At the moment buses drop off and pick up on both sides of the Market Place as well as having to turn across the road.

The current “haphazard” arrangement has also prevented the market being returned to the Market Place from Cowper Road where it “moved temporarily” more than 20 years ago.

Dozens of people - including bus drivers, businessmen and market stall holders - attended a public meeting in Dereham on Wednesday night organised by the Dereham Society to try to put pressure on local councils to find answers.

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A clear “tell us what's happening” message was sent from the meeting to highways chiefs to discover exactly what is happening.

It appears the only realistic option on the table - and one supported by Dereham Town Council - is for an interchange in the Market Place which would see all buses enter from the High Street and drop off and pick up and then carry on down Swaffham Hill or Wellington Road.

That is opposed by Dereham Society as it is “the worst possible option” and market stallholders also say it would take up too much room and prevent the market returning.

But in a letter to the Times, Dereham town clerk Tony Needham has warned that if that option is opposed it could jeopardise the Tuesday and Friday and farmers' markets all returning to the Market Place and a solution being found for buses.

Mr Needham said: “The key priority is to get the markets back into the market place: not only maintaining the livelihoods of the stall holders, but ensuring a sustainable and vibrant centre for our Town, enabling all town centre businesses to flourish, and for the heart of Dereham to beat once again. Alongside this desire is the need to provide a safe, efficient and effective system of public transport, suitable for all.”

He added in a message to local people: “Please give this scheme your support, otherwise we run the real risk of delaying the project and possibly even losing the funding which is currently allocated to the scheme.”

Trevor Wood, who is on the society's traffic sub committee, showed two alternative plans to the public meeting.

One would involve making Norwich Street one way and the buses would stop outside the Memorial Hall. The other was to have bus drop off and pick ups around the war memorial and that could help create pedestrianisation in the Market Place.

Mr Wood 2000 people had voted in a poll by the Dereham Times backing pedestrianisation - but the current interchange idea would “kill that off.”

He said there was “never a better time” to get the market back into the Market Place.

Richard Sizeland, who has had a fruit and veg stall on the market for 36 years, said: “We need buses out of the Market Place totally. We stand more chance of the market growing in the town centre than where we are.”

Many people at the meeting were disillusioned at the lack of consultation from Norfolk County Council.

And it also emerged that there were conflicting messages from Breckland Council about the possible use of part of Cowper Road car park for a bus interchange.

Ian Philpott, chairman of Dereham Chamber of Commerce, said he had been told by a Breckland officer that it had been “totally ruled out.”

But town and district councillor Michael Fanthorpe said Breckland chief executive Trevor Holden was looking into whether it could be possible.

The society is writing to the county council to get answers.

Chairman Philip Morton: “We need to see more action. We need to highlight the history and frustration we are feeling. We certainly need to see some investment which will be a long term solution rather than short term fix.

“We need a vision for the whole town and at the moment we have a hotch potch of ideas which are not going anywhere.”

He said the Cowper Road option had to be looked at and the market needed to be returned to the Market Place.

Mr Fanthorpe said the market had to return to the town centre.

“The Market Place belongs to Dereham and Dereham people. We should say we are moving the market back

Councillor Phillip Duigan said the town council was “desperate to get the market back into the Market Place.”

*What do you think about the issues such as buses, the market and pedestrianisation? Send your views to the Times, 31 High Street, Dereham, NR19 1DZ or email ian.clarke@archant.co.uk.