Breakthrough in bid to bring Wetherspoon pub to North Walsham
07:57 28 January 2016
Archant Norfolk 2016
Pub giant Wetherspoon’s has renewed its commitment to opening in North Walsham.
And a “Plan B” alternative home for North Walsham Town Council has been identified which all parties are confident will break a log-jam stalling the project for months.
Community chiefs have hailed the breakthrough which they hope will lead to major investment in the town and the creation of dozens of jobs.
The town council now looks set to move into North Walsham’s register office, on King’s Arms Street, borrowing its marriage room as a council chamber.
If successful, the relocation would mean the council could quit the New Road offices building which JD Wetherspoon hopes to convert into a pub-restaurant.
In October 2014 Wetherspoon announced that it wanted to buy the building from its owner, North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), in a £1.6m investment project which would create up to 50 jobs.
But doubts surfaced as time passed without alternative homes being found for the building’s tenants, which also include North Norfolk Community Transport and Citizens Advice.
Hopes of moving them all into the former doctors’ surgery on Northfield Road were dashed just before Christmas when the NHS rejected an improved and final offer for the building from NNDC.
And when a December 31 date for vacating the New Road building was not met, social media channels were rife with speculation that Wetherspoon’s would pull out.
But the firm this week confirmed its continuing interest. Spokesman Eddie Gershon said Wetherspoon’s was still making progress with NNDC and would wait “as long as negotiations take”.
He added: “We believe that our style of pub will be welcome in the town and that it will be an asset to the town too. We also believe that a wide range of people will like our style of pub.”
The town council and NNDC are now in detailed negotiations with Norfolk County Council, which owns the register office, according to NNDC director Steve Blatch.
Mr Blatch said the marriage room was under-used because of the boom in alternative licensed wedding venues.
There was enough office and storage space in the building for the town council, and NNDC was waiting for the county council to come back with its terms.
Barry Hester, deputy mayor of North Walsham, told Tuesday’s town council meeting that they had looked at the register office on a previous occasion but the deal then had been much less attractive.
This time, NNDC would take on the lease, the accommodation would be in one place rather than in different parts of the building, and a new kitchen and toilet would be provided.
He added: “I have no hesitation in saying that if all goes ahead as we hope it will, it would be a perfect relocation for us.”