North Walsham Wetherspoon log-jam set to clear with bid on Northfield Road building
A log-jam stalling the arrival of Wetherspoon's in North Walsham looks set to be cleared next week.
North Norfolk District Council's cabinet is expected to start a chain of events which could see the former doctors' surgery on Northfield Road become a new home for North Walsham Town Council and all other tenants of the New Road council offices.
That would solve a major headache for the district council which has agreed a price, in principle, with pub giant JD Wetherspoon which wants to buy the New Road building, and spend £1.6m converting it into a family restaurant, creating 50 jobs.
District council chiefs say Wetherspoon's is waiting to know it will get vacant possession of the building before submitting planning and licensing applications for the site and going forward with the sale.
On September 7 cabinet members will be asked to recommend making an offer to the NHS for the Northfield Road building.
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Council officers say it needs about £150,000 spent on bringing it up to modern standards and their offer would reflect that expense. The district hopes it could be ready for use early in 2016.
It would recoup its outlay by renting space in the building to community groups and says six, including the town council, are already interested - enough to fill more than 70pc of the available space.
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The lead tenant would be North Norfolk Community Transport which is also based in the district's New Road building and, like the town council, has been given until the end of this year to quit.
North Walsham Citizens Advice Bureau, based in mobile accommodation in the New Road building's car park, is also interested in moving into Northfield Road, according to Steve Cheshire, chief executive of Norfolk Citizens Advice.
'It is a shame that we will have to move - our clients know where to find us - however our intention is to be in North Walsham for the foreseeable future, and whilst a change of premises will indeed impact upon our finances we look forward to being able to offer a better facility to our clients,' he said. 'Should it go ahead, we look forward to working in partnership with the other tenants in the building.'
Tom FitzPatrick, district council leader, said the creation of a 'community hub' at Northfield Road would give a number of organisations the opportunity of secure tenancies on a shared site.
He added: 'It would also mean Wetherspoon's could move forward. It will be a real boost for North Walsham to have a national anchor, drawing in people who will take the opportunity to wander round the town and spend money elsewhere.'
Brenda West, mayor of North Walsham, said the town council had expressed interest in Northfield Road, but the deal was by no means finalised and would depend on factors including rental cost. Meanwhile the town council was investigating alternative premises.
Mrs West said the Information Office, based in the New Road offices, had been moved to No 1 Market Place, home of Arts North Norfolk, as part of the town council's preparations to leave.