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Council plan 'lacks vision'

PUBLISHED: 14:00 10 August 2010 | UPDATED: 09:16 16 September 2010

Ian Clarke

Officials have been accused of having a 'singular lack of vision and direction for Dereham' in blueprints for the future of the town.

Dereham Society has launched a scathing attack on Breckland Council, which has just completed major consultations on documents which will shape developments over the next two decades.

Officials have been accused of having a “singular lack of vision and direction for Dereham” in blueprints for the future of the town.

Dereham Society has launched a scathing attack on Breckland Council, which has just completed major consultations on documents which will shape developments over the next two decades.

In an open letter on the society's views, chairman Philip Morton said: “It is the nature of the present process which incorporates massive detail and guidelines allowing for public comment, but a questionable amount of influence on the direction of this planning juggernaut.

“It is difficult to fault this system on the detail and adherence to guidelines however there is a singular lack of vision and direction for Dereham.”

The society said the “absence of leadership” was highlighted by an application for Cowper Road car park to be developed for retail use in the future.

Mr Morton said: “This had not been included in an earlier consultation document and the only reference had been to neighbouring sites which were judged as having reasonable/poor potential.”

A consultation document in March 2007 stated that priority would be given to re-establishing the Market Place and providing a bus station for Dereham.

Mr Morton added: “This vision seems to have disappeared.” He said the society felt the site was valuable due to its “potential to provide a positive solution to the traffic problem around the centre of Dereham.”

“Cowper Road car park has been identified as the best possible site for a bus station/interchange, but has not been made available by Breckland.

“We have tried to find out why Breckland will not release the site but without success.” Mr Morton added: “Instead, we understood a process of consultation would take place amongst all interested parties to arrive at the best solution. The process seems to have been stuck for the past year and is in danger of having the best option taken off the table.”

In its letter the society said the sustainability document has “many fine aims, including diversity and improving the environment of town centres which we can all agree with.”

But Mr Morton added: “The issue is really one of leadership and public accountability as Dereham is in need of a vision to improve the Market Place as a place for people to shop and spend time without the threat of heavy traffic.

“We call upon the councils involved to show imagination and a desire to involve the public in an open dialogue about the future of the town centre.”

Mr Morton said the Site Specific Policies Preferred Options and SSPO Sustainability Appraisal were “extremely well researched and designed to meet guidelines laid down by central government” and so the need for an extra 600 houses to be built in Dereham could not be questioned.

He added: “The choice essentially lies between numerous sites put forward by developers which have been reduced by planning staff down to a small number judged most suitable to meet national guidelines.

“As Dereham Society we have objected and commented on aspects of these sites and trust that these and comments from interested residents will be listened to.”

A Breckland spokesman said: “We are very pleased that the Dereham Society has responded to the consultation.

“The views it has put forward will now be considered, along with all the other responses we received, as part of the ongoing Local Development Framework process.”


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