Dereham at Christmas

As regular readers will know, I don’t go into our local town of Dereham very often. I may drive around the outskirts occasionally, to get to the supermarket, or my shift at the windmill, but I tend to avoid the nearby mini-metropolis whenever possible.

This year, the traders (and perhaps the Town Council) have made some effort, with tasteful decorations above the shops, and a very nice illuminated tree in the Market Place. The recent addition of a large McDonald’s burger restaurant on the edge of town, and an increase in the population, from the newly-opened housing estates, seems to have increased traffic, and started to cause some difficulty with parking too. The building of a large Aldi supermarket close to the existing Lidl and Tesco will not help things, I am sure, but it will give the local residents more choice, so that might be something positive.

After almost four years here, we have seen a change though. The sleepy town that we knew in 2012 is now often bustling. The local free car park that used to only ever be two-thirds full, is now short of spaces most days. In the huge Tesco, that I once believed might have to close for lack of trade, it is becoming harder to park, harder to shop in the aisles, and more difficult to pay for the goods at the checkouts. Despite the gloomy forecasts for retail outlets, even the smaller shops look busy, at least as far as footfall is concerned.

But this increase in popularity must come at some cost. More and more applications are in, for permission to build large housing estates on the edge of the town, or in the small villages nearby. Local Doctors will not be able to cope with the demand, and schools are also unlikely to be able to accommodate the increase in children needing places. The narrow streets of the one-way system might well become clogged with traffic, especially at school-run times, and the evening rush hour. The valuable free parking in the town will be under more pressure, as the local bus services to the surrounding villages are not planned to expand.

Increasing the population without laying down adequate infrastructure beforehand might well be good for Council revenues, and for the shopkeepers and traders in the area. But eventually, something will have to give, and the Christmases to come may well not be as pleasant as they have been in the past.

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14 thoughts on “Dereham at Christmas

  1. I think it’s difficult to predict which towns will shrink or grow. Logic would dictate that younger people leave towns for nearby cities in search of economic opportunities, and that people of retirement age leave cities for the quieter and slower-paced environment of towns. But logic does not often apply. Of course, towns that are located near the sea, the mountains, or a culturally rich area often do see growth, and infrastructure does struggle to keep up with the influx. In general, populations will continue to increase across the board, primarily due to immigration. So while there are towns, and even a handful of cities (New Orleans and Detroit are examples), that have shrunk, they will eventually see a revitalization. People tend to congregate, and the world is only so big.

    I’ve seen a lot of growth in Las Vegas over the past 20 years. One thing that continues to impress me is the constant improvement in infrastructure here. Nevada is home to about 2.8 million people, and half of them reside in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. This, plus the fact that Las Vegas is a major tourist draw, means that the valley gets the lion’s share of the state’s casino-generated taxes and federal funding earmarked for infrastructure. It is not unusual here to see manicured boulevards and highway intersections featuring desert landscaping and various forms of desert-themed artwork. Perhaps surprisingly, considering the valley is relatively small and surrounded by mountains, there is still room for growth. Patches of desert continue to exist here and there, and I suppose eventually they will disappear and that the city will spread beyond the valley itself. Perhaps other Nevada towns will eventually evolve into cities. Nevada is one of the least populated states in the country, so there is a lot of empty desert out there. But since the federal government owns 81% of the state’s land, there will have to be (and there have already been) some government land sales eventually to accommodate population growth.

    I know that European countries are densely populated compared to the U.S., so it’s interesting to hear about your neck of the woods. I hope Norfolk continues to be a pleasant haven away from the big city bustle. Keep your fingers crossed.

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    1. Thanks for a thoughtful and informative comment, David. Nevada is beginning to sound very attractive, along with Arizona, which looks wonderful on Cindy’s blog too. Mind you, the sun is out in Norfolk today, with blue skies for the end of Christmas. (Shame about the mud…)
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thanks, Pippa. It seems they won’t be happy until everywhere is joined together like some grotesque jigsaw puzzle, and each place loses its individual identity. I am reminded of Pete Seeger, with his song ‘Little Boxes.’
      Best wishes as always, Pete. x

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  2. Should this be on Red Flag Flying!? As Jude says, more New Towns would be a far better solution to deal with the growing population of the UK and probably cost less in the long run. After all the years of progress and individual mobility it seems that they are now been driven back to their homes in the Amazon 🙂
    Mind you on the bright side you have an Oldi now, sorry Aldi 🙂

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    1. A population increase of 2-3000 in such a small market town is of course a substantial percentage increase,too. (Around 10%) The council don’t seem to worry about what happens afterwards, just pockets all the extra council tax (And possibly ‘incentives’ from the builders.)
      Hope you have a great Polish Christmas over there, Eddy.
      Love to all, Pete.

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    1. If it was progress that was planned and organised, it would be a good thing. The problem is, it isn’t, so everything else is having to catch up with the increase in population. Something will break down eventually, it always does.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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    1. Always a dilemma, Cindy. It just seems pointless to keep allowing the building of large housing projects, without making sure that the services can cope with the extra demands. The balance is definitely ‘off’ at the moment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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