Changes in store for battling town

Swaffham is in line for sweeping changes over the next 10 years as business leaders and councillors have picked up the gauntlet to reverse the town's fortunes.

Swaffham is in line for sweeping changes over the next 10 years as business leaders and councillors have picked up the gauntlet to reverse the town's fortunes.

Eleven high-profile individuals have pledged to compile a strategy which would preserve and enhance the best aspects of Swaffham, while radically improving its services and facilities.

Working in four different teams which look at issues ranging from transport and local economy to environment and the community, the members wish to compile a vision which would meet requirements for more housing, new transport links and even short-stay traveller sites. Their initiative is encouraged by the prospect of raising £6m through the sale of more than eight acres of allotment land in town.

“We live in ever-changing and exciting times for Swaffham, and during the next 12 months we will be facing challenges already on the table,” said David Wickerson, chairman of the Town Group.

Set up several months ago, the four teams are now looking to have fewer individual gatherings and more meetings as a coherent group to produce a unified approach which would then be submitted to agencies they work with.

Under a Local Development Framework (LDF) mapping Breckland's future over the next 20 years, Swaffham is to get an extra 400 houses and between 350 to 600 new jobs created.

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But Mr Wickerson says the town group should ensure that there are appropriate transport services linking the new developments on the outskirts with the town centre.

“Our vision will be in line with the requirements of the LDF. However, as we expect around 135 new homes on the Redland site to be built in the first phase of the proposed housing development, we need to consider the introduction of new transport links.”

Meeting at the beginning of April the Town Group will also discuss the announced closure of the Job Centre in the town's Corn Exchange and the possibility of finding new opportunities for the facility.

“Under the LDF the district will be required to provide at least 13 temporary travellers' sites in the area. Rather than being told which sites we should earmark, we would like to be pro-active and look out for suggested locations,” Mr Wickerson explained.

He added: “Certainly we have some areas that we all know need attention and improvement - Plowright Place and The Shambles immediately spring to mind. But we have to much to be positive over and the Town Group is uniquely placed to be heard and contribute to the future plans of Swaffham.”

Recently Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears has given the required permission for the sale of eight-and-a-half acres of allotment land.

The Town Group hopes that the disposal will raise over £6m - a sum which will be instrumental in improving facilities and infrastructure in the area.

The group are looking forward to essential feedback to a survey conducted by Swaffham Town Council and asking residents' views on improving services and facilities.

The first responses are expected to be made public by the beginning of April when the group is due to meet to discuss the strategy.

Further meetings will be held throughout the next months and the plan will be completed by the end of the year.

The Town Group will meet on Monday, April 7 in the Assembly Rooms. Meanwhile residents in Swaffham can have their say in the town council survey which is available on the authority's website at