Alternative - Aesthetic contributions: 2011 Thetford loops

The town of Thetford on the Norfolk/Suffolk border faces significant challenge due to its designation as a growth point and the need for significant regeneration. Yet its setting is beside the East of England's largest lowland forest (Thetford Forest Park) which itself is a major tourism and recreation centre and has SPA and SAC designations. The town itself is cut off from this forest by the A11 by-pass which is a major route and safe access to the forest by means other than vehicle is non-existent. Facing significant growth of at least 5000 new homes, Breckland District Council and the Moving Thetford Forward partnership looked at how growth could be linked to this major green infrastructure on the doorstep to bring benefits to the town.

Following partnership work, which included the Forestry Commission, on the town's green infrastructure needs, a plan was formulated which has become part of the transport plan in the Local Area Action Plan. Key drivers for this were to encourage healthier lifestyles (Thetford receives money under the healthy Town initiative) and modal shift.

Having found the majority of travel was less than 10 km, it was determined that one of the keys to linking the Forest to the town for the multiple benefits this would bring and to deliver modal shift was via a cycle way – the Thetford Loops. The Loops will be multi-purpose, with high quality routes for pedestrians and cyclists for leisure and utility trips. Masterplans and subsequent planning applications for areas that include parts of the Loops network either running through or adjacent should provide details to accompany any Planning Application and provision for sections of the Loops will be required as part of the development. The Council will seek a legal agreement to enable the subsequent handing over at nil charge to the appropriate body.

The Forest Loops element includes all the forest routes in Thetford Warren, and the area to the west and southwest of the town. The Forestry Commission actively promotes public access throughout most but there is no official route between forest and town. The Loops will link into existing cycle routes which are of varying quality and 'rideability'. The priority routes are based on the use of the highest quality existing forest routes designated by the Forestry Commission as their 'easy, family routes' tracks which already have an adequate walking and cycling surface.

Thetford is also planning to plant 10,000 trees along its routes as part of its green infrastructure plan.
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