Former Divine restaurant in North Walsham about to re-open in new guise

A key building is set to re-open its doors next week, ushering in a double dose of fresh hope for North Walsham's troubled town centre.

Caf� Kitale and a second-hand furniture shop are due to start trading on Monday in the semi-derelict St Nicholas Court shopping precinct.

It is hoped their arrival will attract up to 200 visitors a day and breathe new life into the moribund precinct.

Both will both be based in the late-1970s' precinct's most prominent unit, measuring 2,500 sq ft, which has been empty for more than a year. It once housed the Divine restaurant and later CST Bar and Grill.

The move coincides with encouraging news on another town-centre eyesore, 4 Market Street, where a legal log-jam has finally been cleared, renewing hopes of its long-awaited re-development.

North Walsham-based builder Rob Scammell and a friend bought 4 St Nicholas Court for �75,000 in October when it came up for auction in London.

They outbid North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) which was aiming to keep the building in local ownership, avoiding problems caused in several precinct units by absentee landlords.

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Mr Scammell, 48, said both the caf� and shop would support the Kitale School Uganda charity, of which he is chairman.

The charity built a three-classroom primary school for 290 orphans in Uganda in 2006 which has since been doubled in size, and now a seventh classroom is being added.

A flourishing Kitale charity shop opened in the heart of North Walsham's Market Place earlier this year, run by Mr Scammell's sister, Helen Constantinou, but he said they now needed extra space to store and sell items of donated furniture.

'The Market Place shop gets very busy. We will be able to direct people from there to the precinct, which all helps,' he added.

Caf� Kitale, which would open six daytimes a week, would be managed by his partner, Susannah Fry, and they hoped it alone would attract about 120 daily customers with extra callers dropping in to see the furniture.

Mr Scammell hopes caf� regulars will include many of the Norfolk County Council office staff expected to move into the precinct's other large unit at 1A, once the home of the Connexions service which closed in October last year.

The county council is seeking planning permission to change its use from a careers to a general office, housing more than 80 staff moved from other bases in the town as the county seeks to reorganise its assets.

Rob McEvoy, chairman of the precinct traders' association, has welcomed the Kitale development.

'I think it's an excellent thing for the precinct. It's the most prominent unit and it's been empty and looking awful for so long. I wish him well,' said Mr McEvoy who owns the nearby Bikeriders shop.

Colin Page, chairman of North Walsham Chamber of Trade, said anything that drew people to the precinct 'has got to be positive.' He added: 'If you get more footfall there, it might attract more shops to open.'

Mr Page was also pleased that the Land Registry has now resolved a dispute at 4 Market Street in favour of the derelict building's owner, Mark Tentori, who does not live in Norfolk.

Uncertainty over ownership of a small strip of land has been stalling joint plans between Mr Tentori and NNDC to redevelop the site with shops, flats and new public toilets.

The demolished building has been empty for about five years and stands at a key gateway for traffic entering the town from Cromer Road.

Sheila Oxtoby, (NNDC) deputy chief executive, said they had asked the site owner to let them know by Christmas whether he still intended going ahead with the plans, approved in November 2009.

The council has set aside �70,000 for the toilets, which would form its contribution to the scheme, replacing the nearby outdated block.

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