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Sign of our Times: Does Dereham have a new town centre?

PUBLISHED: 16:42 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:42 06 February 2020

Maple Aquatics owner Chris High believes Dereham has a new town centre. Picture: Archant/Ian Burt

Maple Aquatics owner Chris High believes Dereham has a new town centre. Picture: Archant/Ian Burt

Archant/Ian Burt

As the Sign of our Times series continues, one business owner says Dereham’s traditional town centre is shifting.

Maple Aquatics owner Chris High says the Maple Aquatics owner Chris High says the "new town" is away from Dereham's traditional town centre. Picture: Courtesy of Chris High

Towards the tail end of last year, established Dereham business Maple Aquatics moved out of the town centre after a 15-year stint on Wellington Road.

But it wasn't a move away from Dereham as Chris High and his wife, Becci, opened their new store on South Green in Toftwood.

As the couple enjoyed a fruitful start to life in fresh surroundings, Mr High said he believed the traditional town centre was "pretty much dead" and referred to a "new town" in the south east corner of Dereham.

Three months further down the line, the 42-year-old insists making a change was the correct decision in the context of Dereham's business and retail fortunes.

Dereham town centre pictured in 2014. Picture: ArchantDereham town centre pictured in 2014. Picture: Archant

"I do think moving was the right thing for us to do, especially with the loss of other businesses in and around where we were," he said.

"Being closer to the A47 makes things so much easier for me. It's the same for customers as well when it comes to getting to us from out of town, and the parking facilities are better for us here."

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Mr High's assertion of a 'new town' is largely based upon an influx of national chains away from the traditional town centre.

Dereham business Maple Aquatics moved to South Green after 15 years on Wellington Road. Picture: ArchantDereham business Maple Aquatics moved to South Green after 15 years on Wellington Road. Picture: Archant

Over the past five years, a McDonald's and Aldi have opened off Napier Way, while Marston's opened a pub a matter of yards away.

On the adjoining Yaxham Road, major retailers including Roys, Homebase and Halfords have been staples for several years, while the progression of Dereham Business Hub is making strides.

"These are places you can go to and instantly get the products you need," said Mr High. "In the town centre there are certain things you just cannot get.

"The thing with Dereham is that people just don't have an awful lot of money, hence all the charity shops and discount stores like QD and Wilko. They are good to have, but how many people do they attract into town?

"I love Dereham and I've lived here all my life, but what's a happening is largely a sign of the times."

As Dereham businesses wrestle with ways to boost their fortunes, Mr High believes joining forces is the only way to survive and thrive.

"What we need is for people to come together and turn this town into a more productive place - both independent retailers and big nationals," he added.

"That way everybody has a chance to put their opinions forward."


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