River Wissey Lovell Fuller

November Soapbox

November 2003

Ron gives us his considered view of the Downham Market re-development programme


Downham Market

We looked forward to the prospect of a redevelopment of the town centre but what a shambles it has been! What a disorganised way of working! 'I don't believe it', as my alter ego Victor Meldrew would say.

It is probably too early to make judgements on the finished work, certainly the wider and smarter pavements are to be welcomed and maybe the old market square will look nice when it is finished, but what of the new market square/car park. After months of work and upheaval then, apart from some new steps alongside the town hall, we seem to have got back to roughly where we were i.e. a large tarmac area, except that the new tarmac surface doesn't seem to be quite as good as the old one. The principal difference between the old car park and the new is the steel toilets prominently situated on the edge of Bridge Street. When I first saw that they had left a space on the edge of the pavement without tarmac I thought perhaps they intended to plant a tree or to have a flower bed; 'that will be nice' I thought. What a disappointment to discover that it was for a toilet block and to see that ghastly tin box. At the time of writing the 'surround' or 'cladding' for the tin box is not finished but it does look as though it will be unnecessarily tall, making the loos even more prominent, and it is difficult to imagine how they can make such an ugly modern structure look appropriate for the market square of an old country town. I understand the unfortunate need to have loos more resistant to attacks by vandals, but why put them there in such a prominent position? Why not put them where the old loos were in the corner? All the plumbing and drains were already there. .

Downham Market does seem to have suffered over the years at the hands of developers. Photographs from years ago show that, parts of the town at least, were pleasant leafy areas, but that was before they decided to by-pass the town square and erected 'The Great Wall of Downham', which is only marginally more attractive than the Berlin wall was. I sincerely hope that this latest re-development will not be looked on with regret by future generations.

Ron Watts

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