Were you April Fooled?: Concrete solution to bitter row over parking at Dereham beauty spot
- Credit: Matthew Usher
A bitter dispute between two councils over parking at a Dereham beauty spot has been resolved after the two sides agreed to concrete over the Neatherd Moor and recreate it at a nearby location.
The moor, which is currently near Crown Road, is owned by Dereham Town Council, but Breckland Council is responsible for some management and maintenance.
Breckland last month erected bollards to block access to three parking areas on the edge of the moor, telling residents that regulations dating back to 1910 gave it a duty to prevent encroachment on the moor.
In an effort to circumnavigate these restrictions, the two councils have reached a compromise which will see the whole Neatherd converted into a large car park, and an alternative open space created at the site of the current Cherry Tree car park.
A Breckland Council source said: 'From the legal advice we received, it was clear we have a duty to stop any parking on the edge moor. Equally clearly, our decision to block access to the existing car parks was unpopular with many Dereham residents.
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'The regulations and bylaws make it almost impossible to find a satisfactory solution with the moor in its current place.
'This is a win-win solution which will finally provide adequate parking where people want it, while bringing green space to the town centre.'
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However, the proposal has already provoked controversy, and a Green party spokesman said: 'This is an absurd plan, and will cause real damage to the local environment.
'We strongly oppose the use of a non-porous material such as concrete to cover the moor. This will only increase the risk of localised flooding, and we will be pressing for a more porous asphalt solution to be adopted instead.'
The two councils are expected to share the costs of the construction work.
Dereham Town Council has warned residents its share of council tax could increase by 66pc next year, while Breckland may introduce parking charges in Swaffham, Watton, Attleborough and Thetford to cover its costs.
Town councillors hope to adopt a French name for the new car park in honour of Dereham's twin town, Caudebec-les-Elbeuf, with Parc Poisson d'Avril an early contender.
Work at the Cherry Tree car park is expected to begin as soon as planning permission is granted.
The pot holes at the car park entrance will be permanently filled with water to provide a new home for a colony of great crested newts currently living in the pond on the Neatherd Moor.