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.