Hopes of an upturn for Dereham town centre
Hopes are high that Dereham's former Chambers newsagents will be filled after plans to refurbish the Grade II listed building have emerged.
The news comes after business leaders said the future is bright for the town centre after a spate of recent closures.
The George Hotel is set to reopen in May, a new butcher's is set to begin trading next week and there are hopes that empty units in the High Street, Norwich Street and Wright's Walk could be brought back to life.
An air of gloom has been hanging over Dereham since a series of closures including Chambers newsagents, The George, Peacocks and Bon March� as well as other smaller stores.
But a more upbeat message has been sounded this week with signs of a turnaround.
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The EDP has learned that the historic George Hotel, on top of Swaffham Hill, which mysteriously closed on New Year's Day will be reopening in May.
Guy Snelling, of Keys Auctioneers, in Aylsham, which was involved in selling furniture and other items from the restaurant and bar, confirmed the previous tenants of the business had gone bankrupt.
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Plans to extend and alter the former Chambers building in the Market Place have been submitted by its owners D&A (2127) Ltd, of London, to Breckland Council.
Proposals include reducing the height of the lift tower and replacing the goods lift, removing the two staircases, which would be replaced with a new one at the back.
A new butcher's shop is also due to open in Norwich Street, replacing S Barnetson Butchers which closed in August. Tony Perkins, co-director of Tony Perkins Butchers, said: 'I have had lots of people stop and talk to me. It has been really positive in Dereham so far.'
He added that customers should think about where they shopped but 'bureaucratic red tape' has not helped smaller businesses.
A premises licence application has been submitted to the district council for a new off-licence called Dereham Express in the High Street.
Stephen Cross, secretary of the Dereham and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: 'We would all have to acknowledge that trading is difficult but Dereham is a thriving town.
'I don't think we are being helped by the local authority that is investigating car parking charges.'
Mid Norfolk entrepreneur, Basil Todd, who owns a range of properties in Norwich Street, said: 'Generally speaking independent shops are doing quite well.'
Dencora property development and investment, of Norwich, owns the Wright's Walk development but refused to comment about the future of the empty units. However, the EDP understands discussions are under way to find new tenants for the Bon March� and Peacocks units.
Meanwhile, the former Inland Revenue offices in Church Street have come up for rent.