Businessman given permission to sell alcohol at revamped Norwich pub despite police objections

A businessman set to reopen a city pub vowed to repay councillors for their faith after receiving permission to sell alcohol - despite police objections.

James Miles intends to reopen The Marquee, in Cattle Market Street, Norwich, with work to revamp the building having been ongoing for almost four months.

But Mr Miles faced questions today at a Norwich City Council licensing sub-committee about a previous criminal conviction he has for conspiracy to blackmail in May 2002, which prompted Norfolk police to object.

The meeting heard Mr Miles agreed to help two old school friends collect a debt, which involved him test-driving a car with the intended target inside.

During the test-drive, Mr Miles drove down a street, got out the car and was replaced by the two men, who then demanded �10,000. The offence was committed in Waterlooville, Hampshire, with Mr Miles serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

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But Mr Miles told today's meeting: 'Ten years ago I was a completely different person to the one I am now. I was in a difficult place in my life and influenced by a social set of people that were not who I thought they were. They were friends from school. It was something that was wrong.'

Mr Miles, who is a qualified chef, said he believed he had been rehabilitated and since his release had not been in trouble with the police.

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He said: 'I believe as part of my rehabilitation I went through a lot of changes and this stage now is the final transition away from the areas where I was in the past.'

Mr Miles added there is a demand for The Marquee to return among the Norwich music scene, but he is keen to work with the community to get them involved and ensure they are not disturbed. The application was granted two votes to one.

Paul Kendrick, licensing committee member, said: 'I personally feel you will repay that faith.'

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