'Vandals are creating a ghost town'

The centre of Thetford's Barnham Cross estate has been branded a ghost town and eyesore after becoming a target for vandals.

Now residents are calling for something to be done about the smashed windows, graffiti and dumped rubbish.

Flats above shops in Pine Close have been empty for 18 months and, despite the owners spending thousands of pounds securing the site, anti-social behaviour continues and residents want the area to be regenerated.

Shaun Pickering Merrett, of Pine Close, said: "It's a real state and something should be done to clear it up.

"It would be great to see some of the shops reopened, as it looks awful with all the shutters down."

Other residents said the area was 'an eyesore' and looked like a 'ghost town' because of the empty shops.

Terry Jermy, Keystone Development Trust community worker for Barnham Cross, said: "The flats are a real mess and something should be done, rather than leaving them to rot.

"A recent tour involving local agencies took place where residents expressed concern at the area being such an eyesore."

The Barnham Cross Action Group and other agencies had managed to get funding to secure the site, but the gates had been broken, added Mr Jermy.

"There is a lot of good work going on in the area but this damage is really dragging down the community," he said.

The landlord responsible for the affected flats and shop units did not want to be named but said: "It's a real problem but there is nothing we can do about it.

"I look after the properties for the owner, who wants to get them up and running again, but they keep being vandalised and it is so expensive to keep repairing – I've spent between 20,000 and 30,000 on them."

A Breckland Council spokeswoman said: "Two of the flats have been boarded up and we are in discussions with the owner, while another two are being refurbished and are nearly completed.

"We are aware of the flytipping problems and we have spoken to the owner about the bins, while a lot of time has been spent at Pine Close by our environmental services team."

Rachael Ashley, a Thetford PCSO, said: "We are consulting with the shop owners on a daily basis. They are working with us to help to identify the individuals responsible for this spate of criminal damage.

"The neighbourhood policing team is conducting extra high visibility reassurance patrols in the area and is encouraging anyone who has any information about the vandalism to contact the police."

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