Church to have permanent base in town precinct

St Nicholas Court shopping precinct, North Walsham. 1a is the One Stop Advice Shop on the left. Picture: SUBMITTED.

St Nicholas Court shopping precinct, North Walsham. 1a is the One Stop Advice Shop on the left. Picture: SUBMITTED. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

A church has been given the go ahead to move into an empty space in a struggling shopping precinct.

The New Life Church will be able to hold mid-week activities and Sunday services at 1A St Nicholas Court precinct, North Walsham, after North Norfolk District Council's planning committee approved an application from the Christian group today (Thursday).

The change of use application was recommended for approval and the space off Vicarage Street was previously used as a Connexions youth office.

Speaking for the church, Ian Dallain, said: 'We do work a lot with the youth of the town and we would really like to expand that. A larger building would allow us to do that.'

New Life has been in the town since 1994 and currently holds Sunday morning services at North Walsham High School.

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The church would like other community groups who cannot afford to hire rooms to use the space in the precinct.

Mr Dallain said he did not think the space could not be used for retail because businesses failed quickly in the precinct.

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North Walsham Town Council objected to the plan.

Speaking for North Walsham mayor Dave Robertson, senior planning officer Gary Linder said: 'It is wrong to say that the precinct is a lost cause; there is an occupant in the precinct who now has four shops with the flats above.

'He is spending heavily in upgrading the shops and the flats. He has another application in to improve the flats and facade, which members saw on their visit.

'Three of of outlets already have designated occupants and another is in discussions. Another occupier has declared an interest in an adjoining shop in order to expand.

'These would leave us with no empty shops in the precinct apart from this one, which is the largest premises and one of the larger for the town itself.'

Businesses at the precinct include a shoe shop, fitness centre and coffee and juice bar.

Councillor Eric Seward, who opposed the plan, said: 'It (the precinct) was outdated when it was completed and it has been a struggle ever since to make it work. It is not something the council has been idle about.'

But he added there was potential to increase footfall.

'I think we can do something better for this precinct. There are other options available,' Mr Seward added.

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