A Norfolk council could force the purchase of eyesore sites as part of radical plans to create a new development around Wymondham railway station. 

South Norfolk Council (SNC) wants to revamp the “underutilised” area, which has been left derelict for decades, by building homes, making it more accessible and improving the aesthetics of the area.

The authority fears the private sector is unwilling to develop the area, which has several landowners, so it will have to step in to force the work through. 

Norwich Evening News: Fenced off area opposite Wymondham stationFenced off area opposite Wymondham station (Image: Sonya Duncan)

In a project called the Wymondham Station Approach scheme, SNC has developed a concept masterplan for improving the area, potentially using ‘compulsory purchase orders’ (CPO) - a legal function allowing authorities to force landowners to sell. 

Wymondham has seen massive growth over the last two decades but the area around the station has become neglected. 

In the ten years from 2001 to 2011, Wymondham’s population grew by 15pc from 12,539 to 14,405 - and by 2020 the numbers living there were estimated at almost 17,000. Hundreds more homes are on the way. 

Norwich Evening News: An old picture of the station, date unknown. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYAn old picture of the station, date unknown. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY (Image: ANTONY KELLY)

One area that could be redeveloped is the Old Sales Yard directly opposite the train station.  

The yard was once an important centre of trade but has become derelict and contaminated. 

Speaking at a recent cabinet meeting, Lisa Neal, who is responsible for the economy at SNC, said officers have tried to engage with landowners “but this hasn’t proven successful”, accusing them of “pursuing land values well above the highest valuation we have obtained". 

Norwich Evening News: Wymondham Rail Station in 1989.Wymondham Rail Station in 1989. (Image: Archant)

John Fuller, leader of the authority, said he hoped site owners would get involved on a “consensual basis” but if not, the council would step in. 

The cabinet agreed to allocate £250,000 towards completing a planning application for the project and to establish a case for CPO. 

Norwich Evening News: Cemetery Lane in Wymondham leading to the train stationCemetery Lane in Wymondham leading to the train station (Image: Google)

What's included in the concept?

Improvements SNC wants to see as part of the scheme include: 

  • Development of the remaining land adjacent to the station, for retail, commercial and new residential development of up to 90 new homes.  
  • Improvements to disabled and pushchair access between platforms one and two. 
  • Better walking, cycling and bus connection between the station and town centre. 
  • Relocation of the council-owned Cemetery Lane car park. 
  • Improvements to the disabled parking and drop-off parking facilities immediately in front of the station.

Norwich Evening News: The station next to the restaurantThe station next to the restaurant (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Railway town

The railway station was built in 1845 on the Norwich to Ely line and still provides a rail link between Norwich and Cambridge. 

A station master's house and office were built later in the 19th century. 

In 1967, although remaining open for passengers, the station was de-staffed and the buildings closed.

In 1989, the original station building, and station master's office were converted into a restaurant and showroom, but since 2020 has been wholly a restaurant, while the station master's house became a private dwelling. 

The building was given Grade II listing in 1972. 

Historic England describes the building as having an “eclectic design” that successfully combines neoclassical detailing with “Norfolk vernacular tradition” and high-quality craftsmanship.