North Walsham Wetherspoon war of words grows louder as district council chief launches attack on town council

North Walsham Town Council offices which Wetherspoon wants to buy from North Norfolk District Counci

North Walsham Town Council offices which Wetherspoon wants to buy from North Norfolk District Council. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The Walsham Wetherspoon war of words turned uglier this week with a blistering attack by Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, on the town council's attitude.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick. Picture: Ian Burt

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Conservative Mr FitzPatrick says he is 'appalled' that some town councillors are 'putting obstacles in the way' of national chain Wetherspoon's bid to open a pub in the town, creating up to 50 jobs.

Liberal Democrat Eric Seward has hit back, saying he and fellow North Walsham town councillors welcome Wetherspoon's interest in the town.

But they want an assurance that cash from the sale of the district council-owned New Road building to the pub chain will be ploughed back into the town - and used to help those left homeless by the move.

Mr FitzPatrick's salvo follows a town council decision to seek legal advice about its rights as one of the organisations housed in the would-be Wetherspoon building.

Eric Seward.

Eric Seward. - Credit: Archant


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In a letter to the News, Mr FitzPatrick said the pub chain would bring more than £1.5m of investment to the town: 'Yet the Liberal Democrats' reaction appears to be to wish to waste taxpayers' money instructing lawyers to attempt to stop economic progress in North Walsham.'

And, in a direct attack on Mr Seward - who is also a district councillor - he concluded: 'Whether or not this proposal should go ahead must surely be about what is actually best for North Walsham and the district - not Eric Seward's re-election campaign.'

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Mr Seward admitted that the search to find the town council an alternative home was proving to be 'a real headache'.

Empty shops and public buildings were either unsuitable, too expensive, too distant from the town centre, or had tenants waiting to move in.

The CAB and North Norfolk Community Transport, which are also based in the NNDC building, are also hunting for new premises. Mr Seward claimed most town councillors were not Liberal Democrats and the decision to seek legal advice had been unanimous because there was a dispute with NNDC about the terms under which the town council had been using the building since 1974.

In his letter, Mr FitzPatrick claimed district council taxpayers had been subsidising North Walsham Town Council which had not paid a commercial rent for the past 40 years.

Mr Seward warned that renting an alternative base could mean a doubling or trebling in the town council's current £7,000 yearly rent. The extra amount would have to be passed on to North Walsham residents. He wanted negotiations with NNDC to continue.

'The town council has never said 'no' to Wetherspoon's,' Mr Seward added. 'What I am seeking is a fair deal for the town council if Wetherspoon's come here.

'The views I expressed are as a resident of the town and someone representing the interests of the town. My re-election is irrelevant.'

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