A special opportunity Dereham cannot afford to miss and a stronger voice for the community

November 20, 2020

aboutDereham Partnership Meeting: Mike Webb, Chairman
aboutDereham Partnership Meeting: Mike Webb, Chairman

It’s been a long-held ambition of the aboutDereham Partnership to campaign for and develop a co-ordinated, three-way partnership between the various sectors – community and voluntary, public (including our three councils) and business, with a view for this collective entity to drive forward a shared vision for the town.

With this ambition in mind, aboutDereham Chairman Mike Webb invited Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman to share his thoughts on Dereham’s future at our Partnership meeting on 18 November.

In his video, recorded especially for the meeting, George started by suggesting that we might use Covid as an opportunity to catalyse a stronger piece of work around the vision for the town’s future, with better planning and co-ordination, as part of the post-COVID recovery plan. “How do we leave Dereham in a better state?” he asked.

George said that Dereham could have a bright future as a central location between Norwich and its research parks and Cambridge with its high-tec and science sectors. He talked about the “incredible opportunities” that could follow for residents if we get our vision for the town agreed and our short, medium and long term planning goals in place. He said, “By creating a partnership, we’ll be able to pull resources from the various pots of money and get a better leverage in accessing funding from the Government.

We need to think big and long term about what Dereham’s future is and about its longer term growth. I’ve suggested to local leaders that a town vision partnership is needed which comprises local businesses, community groups, aboutDereham, charities, arts and sports groups, the town council and town councillors, local district and county councillors and parishes around the immediate vicinity of the town. They all need to be involved and have a voice.

George is very supportive of aboutDereham and says he does not want to interfere, but to help if he can and he is happy to convene a partnership, chair it, pull it together and champion it. He suggests meeting up shortly to plan for a first partnership meeting in the New Year and wants to help make sure we get this special opportunity right.

So in terms of next steps… “We need to convene a recovery and regeneration plan and a partnership to develop that going forward. Councillors and Government are really supportive and it enables us to make a real difference so our children and grandchildren can look at Dereham not only as part of a prosperous area but also a really attractive market town with a really good planning system. We want a town that makes it worth coming into; a café culture, high quality shops and balanced car and pedestrian access to allow residents and visitors to enjoy a historic town centre and encourage people to come and explore the treasures in and around the town. It’s crucial that we take this opportunity for our town.”

Finally, George thanked aboutDereham for all the work being done on the town’s behalf.

Commenting after the meeting, Mike said: “It really does feel as if things are coming together and that there’s a real opportunity now for Dereham, which as George said, we MUST take. The Steering Committee will consider what our best next move should be and update the Partnership in due course.

If you’d like to watch George’s full video message, it’s available here