Town to lose bus station for a year

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Thetford could be without a bus station for a year and tourists buses ‘will not be encouraged’ to stop at the new site once completed.

Neil Smith, Norfolk County Council’s Highways project manager, told a planning inquiry on Tuesday that work on the new £3.5 million Minstergate site could begin in spring or summer 2014 and take a year.

Work to turn the existing bus station into a development including a hotel and cinema is also due to start in spring 2014.

The two projects will mean the town will have no permanent bus station for at least a year, according to Mr Smith.

He said: “We will try and create temporary provision for buses while work takes place.”

Mr Smith also said the new bus station would be an ‘exemplar’ for future bus station developments in the area.

Speaking after the inquiry, Corinne Fulford, from Leaping Hare and Thetford Tourist Information Centre, said the news was ‘no surprise’.

“We see many, many visitors to the town every day, who then spend their money here.

“Tourism employs many people and yet we are not going to ‘encourage’ that.

“They are holding up this scheme up to be an exemplar - they would do better to hang their heads in shame,” she said.

The inquiry, held at the Bell Hotel, was called after Nolan Guthrie, owner of the former Cosy Carpets building in Minstergate, appealed against a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) made by Breckland Council.

The CPO would see Breckland buy Mr Guthrie’s building in order for the bus station project to go ahead.

Mr Guthrie told the hearing he believed he had planning permission to build an 22 room hotel on the Grade II listed site.

He said the hotel would make more money for Thetford than the council’s plans and would provide a budget hotel option for the town.

Breckland claim the planning permission has expired.

Kevin Ward, Breckland’s growth project manager, said the current bus station site was ‘unfit for purpose’ and that the new Riverside development would bring in £600,000 a year to Thetford’s economy.

He added that the Minstergate site is ‘the public’s favoured alternative site’ for a new bus station.

In August 2011, a parish poll showed that 81 per cent of voters did not want the bus station to move from its current site.