New Norwich Asda store gets go-ahead

A new Asda store will be built in Norwich after city councillors granted planning permission for the scheme, less than three months after rejecting the proposal.

Members of Norwich City Council's planning committee this morning voted seven to five in favour of the �122m development at the former Bally Shoe Factory site.

The plans for the 5,796 sq m Asda superstore also include a gym, pub, community centre, 334-space car park and other shops at the derelict site on Hall Road, Tuckswood.

Developers say the scheme will create up to 300 jobs in the superstore and about 100 elsewhere in the scheme and council officers had recommended approval, despite the scheme being against the council's own policies.

The plans which were approved were identical to those which were rejected by the committee in September, when the application was turned down by five votes to four.

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Last time around, the Green councillors on the committee, and Liberal Democrat Caroline Ackroyd voted to refuse it, with the four votes by the Labour councillors present not enough to stop the plans being turned down.

But this time, Mrs Ackroyd, who represents Eaton, was one of those who voted in favour, saying her decision to change her mind had not come easily.

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She said: 'My decision to change the way I am voting is a reluctant one. I had hoped Asda would come back with a better proposal, but I have thought long and hard about this over two months.

'It is not an easy decision to come to and I do not change my mind easily.'

But she said she was voting in favour because she understood that people in the area needed to see something done with the site.

Mike Sands, Labour councillor for Bowthorpe, said: 'Clearly, this development represents an opportunity that Norwich would be foolish to turn down.'

He welcomed the jobs which would be created and the boost that would bring to the local economy.

But Neil Blunt, Green city councillor for Wensum ward, questioned how many jobs would actually be created. He said: 'We simply don't know enough about the basis of this employment and whether we are letting it go through with jobs that are quite spurious.

'It's okay us talking about 300 jobs if they are new to the city, but if they are borrowed or stolen from elsewhere, it's not new jobs at all.'

The reasons given by the councillors for turning down the application previously was that it was too dominant for a district centre, the plans did not make best use of a brownfield site, protected trees would be removed, pedestrian access was not good enough and the car park was too dominant.

Following the last decision, in a poll organised by the Norwich Evening News, nearly four in five people said councillors had got one of the city's biggest planning decisions for years wrong.

Almost 1,000 readers had their say in just four days, with 79pc saying that proposals for a the development near Tuckswood should have been given the go-ahead.

When built, the store will become Asda's second superstore in the city. The other one is at Drayton High Road in Hellesdon.

• See tomorrow's papers for the full story.

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