‘It’s time for action’

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Owners of Thetford’s unsightly and derelict buildings could soon see the district council flex its muscles.

Breckland is taking action to tackle the blight of neglected properties in the district, with four in Thetford making the cut.

On Monday, cabinet members agreed to focus on a prioritised list which ranked buildings according to an ‘unsightly’ score out of 15.

Thetford’s Breckland Mowers building in Bury Road and social services depot in Elm Road both received high scores of 12, with only seven others across the district considered more unsightly. The much-talked about Cottage Hospital site in Earl Street and a property in Newtown, meanwhile, received scores of seven and six respectively.

Cllr Paul Claussen, Breckland’s executive member for place, said: “To achieve the greatest impact, it is important that we prioritise resources and focus on those sites which are a major problem for local people, where using our powers can help make a real improvement.”

The plan is to contact the owners and work with them to improve the sites but, where they do not cooperate, Cllr Claussen is ‘determined’ to make full use of the council’s legislative powers.

Having nominated three of the sites, Cllr Terry Jermy said he was ‘very pleased’ to see work being undertaken and said it came as a direct result of Cllr Mike Brindle’s ‘Save the Cottage Hospital’ petition which was presented to Breckland in February with 1,800 signatures.

For Cllr Brindle, however, Breckland’s involvement is long overdue and, while pleased Cottage Hospital was on the list of derelict sites, he was ‘disappointed’ it scored only seven out of 15 as it was a ‘significant town centre building and formed part of a fine streetscape’.

He said: “It is good that Paul Claussen says Breckland will make full use of its executive powers but the hospital has been empty for 10 years. Why have these powers not been used in all that time? The building should be put to use not left to deteriorate further. Time now for action not words.”

Cllr Chris Harvey said the Bury Road site had ‘lovely flint walls’ which were starting to fall apart and the Norfolk County Council-owned Elm Road site was an ‘eyesore’ which should be restored but he agreed the hospital site appeared to be the main priority for residents.

Of Breckland’s intervention, he said: “Better late than never, but, on past record, who knows what the future will hold?”