Hopes that popular Norwich shop could be saved

A shop which its users have described as a 'lifeline for the elderly' could be saved from making way for housing, after a compromise deal was struck.

More than 500 people in West Earlham had signed a petition to stop the mini market on Wilberforce Road being converted into flats.

Norwich City Council, which owns the shop, had proposed for it and a former garage site to be turned into 14 flats.

The council allocated the site to Cotman Housing Association back in 2006, with the aim of providing affordable housing.

But the potential loss of the shop sparked fury from people who live in the area, who started the petition, saying it was a lifeline for some of the older people in the area.

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However, at a meeting of Norwich City Council's controlling Labour cabinet this week, it emerged a compromise could be reached.

Victoria MacDonald, cabinet member for housing, said: 'People will be aware there was a petition presented against the closure of the mini market and officers suggested the possibility of a new shop unit being part of the new scheme.'

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She said that since the original consultation, the council and Cotman had agreed that the housing association will provide the shell of a shop within the development, with the number of flats reduced by one to 13.

The city council would then lease the shop unit on a long-term agreement, paying a peppercorn rent to Cotman. The council would then market the shop unit, but if there were no takers then Cotman would be able to submit a change of use to turn it into a flat.

Officers at the cabinet meeting told councillors that Sutha Karan, who currently runs the mini market, would be given first refusal on taking on the unit.

Mr Karan was not available for comment yesterday, but has previously said he would like to remain in the area if a new shop was created.

Plans for the development are due to be discussed by the city council's planning committee on Thursday, January 17.

Officers said, if planning permission is granted, the existing shop unit would be demolished early next year.

Council officers said it would take about a year for the development to take shape, when there would be no shop in the area.

Are you fighting to save a local shop which is under threat? Call Norwich Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375, or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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