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Asda wants to double shop units and stop cut price community use of gym at long-awaited Norwich store

PUBLISHED: 11:50 28 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:12 28 July 2014

Artist's impression of the proposed Asda at the Bally Shoe Factory in Norwich

Artist's impression of the proposed Asda at the Bally Shoe Factory in Norwich

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One of the most controversial Norwich planning applications in recent years looks set to be back on the agenda – after superstore giant Asda applied to change conditions attached when it was given permission for a city store.

The firm wants to double the number of retail units from four to eight at the £122m development of the former Bally shoe factory off Hall Road.

And it is asking to go back on its pledge to make a gym on site available for public use.

Asda has submitted the proposed changes as an amendment to the controversial plan. But civic watchdog The Norwich Society said: “We believe the change in the number of retail units from four to eight is not a minor alteration and should be considered as a new application.”

In December 2012, the company was given the green light by Norwich City Council for the development. The plans included a 5,796 sq m Asda superstore, and a gym, pub, community centre, 334-space car park and other shops at the derelict site.

But, with up to 400 jobs promised. people have grown frustrated at the lack of progress on the site and it has now emerged that Asda has asked the city council if it can vary the planning permission it received.

In a submission to City Hall, Mark Underwood, from Deloitte, said: “Asda is currently in negotiations with a commercial gym operator.

“The operator in question is likely to require the gym to be open 24-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week and provides its members with an excellent range of brand new cardiovascular and fitness machines for a low monthly membership fee, which is paid by direct debit with no membership contract.”

But he said the operator had advised Asda that it could not comply with the planning permission clause which allowed community access to the gym for at least 20 hours per week at a charge of at least 50pc less than the usual price.

He said: “The operator’s membership rate is likely to be around £10 per month pre-opening and from around £18 a month post opening. A 50pc reduction (less than £5 per month pre-opening) would make the operator’s offer unviable.

“Furthermore, the operator has also advised that they cannot comply with the clause which requires the gym to be used by local schools and colleges for not less than 10 hours per week free of charge.

“Due to the operator’s proposed 24-hour business concept, it would not be practical to allow schools/colleges free access. In addition, members must be aged 18 plus, with a bank account.”

He said, despite the sought after increase in the number of retail units, the actual floorspace of those units would drop slightly, from 11,075 sq m to 11,067 sq m.

A spokesman for Asda said: “We have submitted an application to allow a small increase in the sale of non food goods such as clothing and the latest DVDs.

“We are committed to bringing forward the new store and community centre as soon as possible.”

The matter is due to come before members of the city council’s planning committee in August or September.

The original plans proved controversial. They were approved less than three months after city councillors rejected the same proposal.

Members of Norwich City Council’s planning committee voted seven to five in favour of the development, months after turning it down by five votes to four.

Following the first decision, in a poll organised by the Norwich Evening News, nearly four in five people said councillors had got one of the city’s biggest planning decisions for years wrong.

Almost 1,000 readers had their say in four days, with 79pc saying that proposals for the development should have been given the go-ahead.

Since permission for the new Asda was granted, the green light has been given for rival food store Morrisons to open around the corner.

Work has already started for the new Morrisons store to take up some of the existing B&Q store at Neatmarket, off Hall Road, which supermarket bosses said would create 300 jobs.

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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