Tiny strip of land stalls progress on North Walsham key eyesore

A tiny strip of scrub land is stalling the redevelopment of what has been dubbed North Walsham's worst eyesore.

Developers have been itching to sort out derelict 4 Market Street for well over a year-and-a-half.

But plans passed in November 2009 cannot go ahead because of a dispute over a patch of weed-ridden, unused, fenced ground estimated to cover an area smaller than a professional snooker table.

The impasse has frustrated and angered Walsham North Norfolk District Councillors Eric Seward and Virgina Gay who say they are 'hammering away' at the problem and have pledged not to give up.

The demolished Grade 2-listed building, in the heart of Walsham's Conservation Area, stares out at motorists entering along the key Cromer Road gateway to the town.

After years of neglect, dating back to about 2006, the former printer's works, later a shop, was bought by businessman Mark Tentori.

He struck a deal with the district council to redevelop it together with the nearby council-owned public toilets which have been earmarked for modernisation.

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The approved scheme would see a redevelopment consisting of new state-of-the-art public toilets, and three ground-floor shops with six flats above.

But Mr Tentori has been unable to proceed because the Land Registry has queried his ownership of a piece of land, needed for the redevelopment, which leads from beside the public toilets towards 4 Market Street. Mr Seward estimates that it measures approximately three feet by 18 feet.

An earlier hold-up, involving a query between the Land Registry and district council over another area of land the council claimed to own, was finally resolved, after six months, in the council's favour.

Mr Tentori, who does not live in Norfolk and could not be contacted for comment, has now registered an appeal with the Land Registry and Mr Seward and Mrs Gay fear that could involve many more months' delay.

'We're tearing our hair out over this, like the rest of North Walsham,' said Mr Seward. 'We thought we had got it cracked. This latest delay beggars belief and puts the whole project in jeopardy.'

Mrs Gay added: 'The immediate, passionate, anger about the state of this building has died down but it's something people strongly mention if they talk about the town being unattractive.

'It was such a characterful building and so important to the nearby churchyard enclosure, which is one of the best in north Norfolk.'

Mr Seward said the position of 4 Market Street, its past glory and the length of time it had lain derelict probably made it the most notorious of a number of well-documented North Walsham eyesore sites.

'If people talk about the town going downhill, this is always at the back of their minds,' he said.

The council has set aside �70,000 for the redevelopment of the toilets which Mr Seward said were 'not nice' for residents or visitors to use.

'If the Land Registry end up saying that land can't be part of the development then we're back to square one - it's an integral part of the plans,' he added.

The council would be making strong representations to the Land Registry to resolve the matter quickly because the last thing anyone wanted was a permanently derelict building on the approach to the town centre.

Mr Seward said: 'As far as we are concerned it's an urgent priority that this site is sorted out.'