Dereham: twinned with WEST Germany?

Rob GarrattIt may now be more than 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, but the reunification of one of Europe's biggest states seems to have blindly passed one patch of mid-Norfolk by.Rob Garratt

It may now be more than 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, but the reunification of one of Europe's biggest states seems to have blindly passed one patch of mid-Norfolk by.

Visitors to Dereham are welcomed by a sign that proudly announces a twin relationship with R�then - a town that apparently lies in the now-defunct country of West Germany.

While the rest of the world has embraced a united continent and the 21st century, Dereham appears to be stuck in a timewarp; the sign a forgotten relic from what was literally another era.

In 1985 the Dereham Times proudly reported that the twinning association had unveiled new town entry signs, bought by the twinning association for �300.

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Bob Everett, the association chairman, was reported as saying: 'It's a public statement that everyone now going into the town can be under no misunderstanding that we are twinned and who we are twinned with.'

The same understanding may not be as clear today, but as the times change so do the prices - and replacing a single sign would now cost in the region of �2,000 - a sum the town council would rather put into projects like its ambitious revamp of the Memorial Hall.

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Today only a single sign, on the A47 approaching Dereham from the west, is believed to remain and reads 'East Dereham; The Heart of Norfolk; Twinned with R�then West Germany.'

Philip Morton, chairman of the Dereham Society, raised the issue that Dereham's other twin - the French town of Caudebec-l�s-Elbeuf - is neglected on the signs, and said he will be raising the issue at the society's next meeting.

He added: 'Given that replacing just one of signposts is rumoured to cost �15,000 it is not surprising there is considerable inertia.'

Over the last decade the Dereham Area Partnership and Dereham Tourism Association have led various efforts to get that sign and others replaced, arguing that referring to the town as East Dereham, a title officially sliced in half years ago, is bad for tourism.

George Hayes, of the Dereham Area Partnership, said: 'Eventually we got pushed from pillar to post and no one wanted to take responsibility for it. It was a nice idea but there was no money.'

Meanwhile, there appears to be a reluctance to take ownership of the old sign; the town council initially claimed it to be the Highways Agency's responsibility, which in turn suggested Norfolk County Council had ownership.

A spokesman at County Hall admitted the sign 'clearly needs changing' - but said it was up to the town council to apply to them to make the change.

Phillip Duigan, Dereham Town Council's member for heritage and open spaces, said: 'It's one of those things that people say and obviously recognise, but it's not a pressure of the day.

'It would be nice to go and get it tarted up, but personally I feel like if we have to live with it, we have to live with it.'

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