Future Breckland: Thriving People and Places is a project to revitalise Breckland’s five market towns and equip them for the future. The project has already seen a plan drawn up for Dereham: plans for Attleborough and Thetford will follow. Now, the newly-revealed plans for Watton and Swaffham are setting out proposals that are individually-tailored for each town. The proposals include long-term goals for the next decade and shorter-term goals for the next one to three years.
The plans have been drafted by economic specialists Hatch, with urban regeneration experts, We Made That, after being commissioned by Breckland Council. The programme is being backed by Norfolk County Council and local town councils.
Feedback gathered from residents, businesses and community groups in Watton and Swaffham at a range of engagement events in 2021 has influenced the plans. The project team have invited everyone to share their views on the draft plans and this feedback will be used to shape the final versions of the plan.
Some of the short-term suggestions put forward in the plan for Swaffham include: installing public art; trialling partial pedestrianisation schemes and car-free days; putting in place improved signage and maps; increasing tree planting and creating parklets and a green gateway; and installing electric vehicle charging points. Watton’s short-term suggestions include: shop front improvements and work to make the eastern gateway more visually appealing; improved signage in the town and along Peddar’s Way; work to make the town centre easier to negotiate for pedestrians and cyclists; and themed events and festivals that celebrate Watton.
Longer-term initiatives for Watton include:
- Improving local provision: optimising how community services at four locations work together will improve provision, make more efficient use of space and increase the financial viability of the different organisations
- Enhancing the town centre: upgrading Chaston Place and Middle Street, and improving the connectivity between them will create a new focal point for the town centre
- Rejuvenating Loch Neaton: providing swimming, fishing, boating, sports and leisure pursuits will help address local leisure provision shortfalls and provide a unique selling point to attract new visitors, residents and businesses. Supporting facilities will be provided to maximise the success of this intervention, such as car parking, changing facilities, equipment hire and a café
- Providing a new public park: creating a new green space behind the Charlotte Harvey centre will encourage visitors to explore more of Watton, provide new leisure opportunities for young people in particular, and increase biodiversity in the town centre
Longer-term initiatives for Swaffham include:
- Enhancing the town centre: changing traffic flow around the marketplace and making it easier to walk and cycle around the town will make it a more pleasant place to visit and shop. Ongoing work with Historic England on Swaffham’s High Street Heritage Action Zone will enhance many of the town’s beautiful Georgian buildings.
- Reinvigorating the marketplace: removal of the market place car park, branding the market with a website and gazebos, new signs and lighting and trialling evening markets would all make Swaffham’s popular market an even stronger asset to the town.
- Boosting the local economy: creating much needed office and light industrial space on Turbine Way will allow Swaffham to grow economically and meet demands for hybrid working.
- Building a new leisure centre and a new culture and arts hub: leisure and arts facilities are important for residents’ wellbeing, and a suitable building for an arts hub has already been identified and purchased by the town council.
Re-connecting Watton and Swaffham: re-purposing the Watton and Swaffham Railway line as a walking and cycling route will better connect the two towns for residents travelling for education, employment and leisure purposes while also creating a new attraction to encourage people to visit and spend money in local businesses. This idea is shared as part of both plans.
Cllr Paul Claussen, Breckland’s Executive Member for Economic Development and Growth, said: “The proposals laid out in these plans for Watton and Swaffham are ambitious – but this is part of the great ambitions we have for the future of our district’s towns. The plan we revealed for Dereham was met with great enthusiasm by the public, which was wonderful to see. I hope that these latest plans are also greeted with the same interest, and energise the residents of Watton and Swaffham to get involved with the Future Breckland project – and let us have their feedback.”
Cllr Judy Anscombe, the Mayor of Swaffham, said: “Swaffham is a great place to live, work and visit, we have a beautiful historic town, but we are also looking to the future and welcome initiatives that will enhance and keep our town vibrant. Thank you to the local people who have already taken part in the consultation events, their valuable insights and contribution have informed the plan and identified a number of interventions, both in the short and longer term, that we hope to see taken forward. There are some exciting elements to the plan, and we hope residents will be keen to get involved.”
Cllr Jane Fountain, the Mayor of Watton, said: “Watton Town Council hopes the Town Delivery Plan, along with the emerging Watton Neighbourhood Plan, will be useful tools to assist future planning and that residents will take the opportunity to respond to consultations.”
Cllr Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Growing the Economy, said: “Watton and Swaffham, like all five market towns involved in this project, are integral to Norfolk’s unique character and its bright future. Our county’s market towns all provide environments for people to work, live and thrive, and they attract visitors from across the country and indeed the world. These plans are key to ensuring these market towns remain one of our county’s strengths and we’re very pleased to be working with Breckland an other partners to make these proposed improvements a reality.”
To view the draft plans for Watton and Swaffham or find out more about plans for all five towns, go to: www.breckland.gov.uk/Future-Breckland