As one of the two Norfolk County Councillors that represent Thetford, I wanted to respond and attempt to add some clarity around the concerns about ’20-minute neighbourhoods’.
Firstly, I think it is important to point out that it is not clear who produced the leaflets that were circulated around Thetford or who has funded them. There are no contact details on them, so it is impossible to seek additional information or get clarity. Ordinarily material such as this would contain what is known as an ‘imprint’ where the person publishing it has their name and address stated and details of where it is printed. These leaflets do not contain that information.
Secondly, the leaflet advised people to turn up at a Thetford Town Council meeting. Transport policy is set by Norfolk County Council and has absolutely nothing to do with the Town Council. Town Councillors have never discussed 20-minute neighbourhoods and they have no control over transport policy.
There has been no decision made to implement 20-minute neighbourhoods anywhere in Norfolk, including Thetford. The County Council very briefly touched upon the issue at a meeting on the 13th December 2022, but this was not a green light to proceed, as has been suggested by some. The vote that was taken was not an endorsement of the concept. The motion that was voted upon was to review the advantages and disadvantages – a sort of scoping exercise. That motion received unanimous support – largely because on the whole Councillors like to have as much information as possible before making a decision. The motion was a step towards getting information before a decision could then be made. What I hope the scoping exercise will do is also define what a 20-minute neighbourhood is as this is very unclear, and it means different things to different people.
Personally, I would welcome proposals that enable people to access more services on foot, or by cycling or by using public transport. I think the vast majority of people would support this. We need much greater investment in public and sustainable transport. It is better for the environment and with the cost of fuel only ever increasing, it would be better for our pockets too. Investment in services is also needed – one of the reasons people are now so reliant on cars is because our services have been reduced and removed after years of austerity and funding cuts. Services that you once could get at the Cottage Hospital on Earl Street for example now require a trip West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.
If the introduction of a 20-minute neighbourhood meant cars would be banned, or fines or financial penalties introduced for using your car – as has been suggested – then this would be a non-starter. I suspect Norfolk County Council would not be in support of this whatsoever. It would be illogical, unenforceable and just plain wrong.
If 20-minute neighbourhoods restrict movement, impost fines, or otherwise curtail personal freedoms then I would be totally against and I would vote strongly against.
I hope this somewhat reassures people but if anyone would like to discuss further then please do get in touch. I look forward to the public meeting due to take place when Norfolk County Council will have the opportunity to confirm its position in relation to 20 minute neighbourhoods.
Councillor Terry Jermy
Thetford West Division
E-mail: [email protected]
Monday 6th March 2023