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Traffic-free or not traffic-free? Mixed views on Dereham Market Place debate

Traffic flow through Dereham Market Place was restricted during the recent gas repair works.

Traffic flow through Dereham Market Place was restricted during the recent gas repair works.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

A debate over whether Dereham’s market place should be made traffic-free has polarised opinion in the town – and prompted calls for a long-term strategic vision for its future.

The suggestions were initially sparked by National Grid’s six-week project to replace gas pipework earlier this year, which forced the temporary closure of one lane of the main road through the Market Place.

While some shops and businesses reported a “devastating” impact on their takings during that time, other townspeople suggested the single-lane layout actually made the Market Place more “people-friendly”.

During the past week, the Times has been running an online poll asking your opinions on what, if anything, should be done to change the traffic flow.

Of 165 entries received by yesterday lunchtime, 39pc said the market place should be permanently pedestrianised, 17pc said traffic should be restricted to one-way and 44pc said it should be left exactly as it is.

Among the views we have received is a letter from Swanton Morley Parish Council chairman Roger Atterwill, who called for a greater public debate to form strategies for the town’s future, and highlighted the need to look at the “bigger picture”. He says: “For a start, I do not think the traffic problems will ever truly be solved unless a north-east link road is built around the town. I am convinced that such a road should be built from the B1110 Elmham Road at the Corners Nursery junction stretching behind the Dereham Hospital across the Swanton Morley Road and joining the A47 near to the Aldiss Park football ground.

“If such a road was built, this would, in my view, greatly reduce the traffic along Quebec Road and Cemetery Road resulting in less through traffic such as HGVs and vehicles travelling to and from Norwich, having to flow through the town centre.

“This link road would open up the town for future development to include much-needed commercial and industrial business property helping to create more jobs for local people.”

Mr Atterwill’s full letter is printed on page 6, along with a contribution from Dereham Shopping Centre manager Nigel Sizeland, who says: “Serious thought now needs to be applied as soon as possible to the possibility of upgrading, improving and part-pedestrianisation of Dereham’s Market Place. The coffee/cafe culture is now big business and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

But many people are wholly opposed to any form of pedestrianisation.

Among the comments on our website is one from Rory Sexton, who says: “Retailers in Dereham are already struggling to survive. If you stop traffic passing through the town centre, you lose visibility and advertising opportunity for the shops in the town and this will have a significant impact on trade. And how will we reach our office car park at the top of Church Street?

“Just keep it how it is please. Find something more worthwhile to spend our taxes on.”

Earlier letters included one from Bill Pound, whose Norfolk Images business is based on the Market Place, and is also opposed to pedestrianisation.

He said: “If you want a ghost town with even more empty shops then that’s the way to go, driving more people to the likes of Tesco, Morrison’s and other out-of-town shops. It would be a waste of public money to pedestrianise the Market Place when nobody would be around to walk there.”

Trevor Wood, of Fakenham Road in Hoe, said he had noticed that the traffic flow had improved while the one-way system was in place. He added: “The free parking provision very near to our town centre is exceptional and the two weekly markets on the busiest days of the week demonstrate that parking in Market Place is not necessary; the extended closure of one lane recently also showed that two-way traffic through the area is neither essential nor desirable.”

Meanwhile, Philip Morton, of Neatherd Road in Dereham, advocated a fully traffic-free town centre.

His letter said: “Giving priority to people rather than cars is increasingly the trend across other European towns and cities.

“We need to push for a similar vision to adapt to the numerous challenges confronting market centres.”

What do you think of these suggestions? Contact us on dft.letters@archant.co.uk

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