Fancy a pint in the council offices? Wetherspoons’ plan for North Walsham
- Credit: Archant
Pub giant Wetherspoons is looking to put a pub and restaurant in North Walsham's town council offices.
The chain is proposing a £1.6m investment in the New Road buildings, which would create 50 new jobs.
And North Norfolk District Council, which owns the listed building, says it would be a welcome boost for the economy of the town, which has had problems and is seeking to regenerate.
But it would mean moving the town council chamber and office, along with the Citizens Advice Bureau which operates from portable buildings in the car park.
District council deputy leader Rhodri Oliver who is cabinet member for assets said: 'We welcome this proposed investment in the heart of North Walsham's town centre.
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'We are committed to looking at how to make the best use of all our assets and using them to help us in supporting and encouraging the long term prosperity and success of towns such as North Walsham. I see it as a positive step in bringing people to the town centre.' He did not think it would harm other pubs, adding 'all competition is healthy'.
Kings Arms publican Martin Miles however was shocked at the news and feared it would spell 'hard times ahead' for the town's pubs.
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JD Wetherspoon approached the council in June and a conditional offer was made in late September. Local members and the town council have been told.
The scheme will also have to get planning permission and a licence through the council's committees, when any public concerns can be aired.
The planned pub includes a large feature bar, outside seating and retention of listed barn structures as bin and beer stores. JD Wetherspoon spokesman, Eddie Gershon said: 'If the plans come to fruition we would look to invest £1.6 million on the development project and create up to 50 new full and part time jobs.
'We also believe that a Wetherspoon pub in the town would act as a catalyst for further investment by other businesses'.
The scheme will be discussed by the district cabinet on November 3, which will include relocation options for existing tenants.
District council leader Tom FitzPatrick felt the plan would be 'a huge boost' which would help re-energise the town centre.
The council believed it would help attract other well-known retail brands to consider investing in the town.
He added: 'This positive proposal from a well-respected national business is a vote of confidence in North Walsham.'
The news was particularly welcome in the wake of the potential closure of the nearby Heinz factory with the loss of 200 jobs.
A town council statement welcomed the confidence shown by Wetherspoons in the town, but warned there would be 'consequences' for the existing public houses and restaurants, along with an increase in traffic and in parking needs.
The council was seeking an urgent meeting with Wetherspoon and the district council to explore these issues in more detail, and call for a public meeting.