Could it be last orders in West Norfolk for Britain’s biggest beer shop?
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Britian's biggest beer shop could quit West Norfolk if its expansion plans are blocked.
Beers of Europe has gained a cult following, with ale fans from across the country and as far afield as America making the pilgrimage to its shop on an industrial estate off the A10 at Setchey, south of King's Lynn.
Now its founder Derek Clark, who runs the business with his family, has applied for permission to double the size of his showroom on Garage Lane and add a bar so customers can try before they buy.
The Campaign for Real Ale, which is supporting the application, said the move would create a centre of excellence for beer buffs.
But highways officers fear the plan would slow down traffic on the junction between the lane and the A10. And planning officials are recommending councillors on West Norfolk's planning committee should reject the scheme when they discuss it on Monday.
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Mr Clark said the business would move to Cambridgeshire if that happens. Mr Clark, who runs the shop with his wife Carol and their sons Jason and Daniel, added: 'If we are unable to expand we will have to shift.
'We would most likely go more towards Cambridge as we get a lot of traffic coming from that way. We would come straight out of King's Lynn.
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'A lot of our traffic comes from the south and we would gain a lot more footfall.
'It would be a shame because we bring people from all over the place to King's Lynn.'
As well as the retail aspect of the shop Beers of Europe has become a tourist attraction in its own right with visitors coming from far and wide to visit.
Mr Clark said: 'We've had two people come from California just to visit the shop and there is a man who has driven from Milan twice to come.'
Beers of Europe stocks 2,000 different beers from more than 60 countries as well as 1,000 spirits and some wines and home-brewing equipment.
In a letter to the borough council's planning officer Richard Smith, highways development manager at Norfolk County Council, said: 'I am happy to accept that most of the increases in traffic movements are likely to be off-peak.
'However, my concern is that there would still be a significant increase in traffic overall with the application as submitted, which can only lead to an increase of slowing, stopping and turning movements on the A10 and Garage Lane simple T junction.
'This in my view would have a detrimental impact on the safety and efficiency of the principal route at this location where there are found to be existing accident records.'
The plans would see the shop floor space more than double in size although the building itself would only increase in size by 246 sq m.
The extra sale space would come from decreasing the amount of space currently used for storage with more stock being kept on the shop floor.
Although around half of the store's trade comes from online orders the shop receives 50,000 visitors each year.
There are currently 12 members of staff at the store and if the expansion goes ahead there are expected to be at least five new jobs created.
Jeff Hoyle, West Norfolk Campaign for Real Ale's pub preservation officer, said: 'I think it would be good for the local area. If it does expand it could become a real tourist attraction.
'It could become a venue for educational evenings, beer tasting and that sort of thing. You get people from around the country for similar beer tasting events.
'I think you would get a lot of expansion for not a lot of traffic. Coach trips would bring in a lot of people at a time with not a lot of traffic.'