MP and council clash over casino plan

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright today found himself at loggerheads with borough council chiefs over the site of the resort's multi-million pound large casino.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright today found himself at loggerheads with borough council chiefs over the site of the resort's multi-million pound large casino.

Mr Wright has written to David Marlow, chief executive of the East of England Development Agency (Eeda), placing his chips firmly on a stretch of South Denes wasteland next to the Pleasure Beach as the best site to deliver regeneration and jobs.

However, the council's deputy leader, Barry Stone, described it as “highly inappropriate” to state his preference in a letter at such an early stage.

He said it was “ill-informed” of the MP because details of casino schemes proposed for a borough-council owned stretch of the Golden Mile - seen as the second serious candidate for the project - had yet to be disclosed.

Mr Stone said: “You have got to weigh up all the options before coming to a view, and it is important to consider that the Golden Mile site is probably the most significant property site ever to be put forward for redevelopment in the town. The resort's tourism prospects for the next 50 to 60 years are tied up with what happens on that site.”

At least half a dozen companies and consortiums want to develop the Golden Mile site with a casino complex, including such elements as conference halls, hotels, water parks, theatres, bars and restaurants - such projects might well involve the demolition of the Marina Centre and the building of replacement sports facilities elsewhere in the borough.

Most Read

In his letter to Mr Marlow, Mr Wright said a primary aim of the new casinos was to aid regeneration - and the South Denes, with its traditionally higher than average unemployment, was an ideal candidate for a scheme that was sure to boost job opportunities.

A scheme being put forward by the Pleasure Beach and its partners, The Aspinall Group and Henry Boot Development Company, involves such elements as a bowling alley, multiplex cinema, bars and restaurants as well as the casino.

Mr Wright said an added advantage of this site was that people would have to make a conscious choice to travel to the casino as opposed to walking past, as they would if it were in a central location such as on the Golden Mile. He writes that he is speaking not only as the town's MP but as a member of the pre-legislative Parliamentary committee that looked into the concept of the casinos.

Significantly, Eeda has been asked by the council to commission a consultants' report evaluating the pros and cons of the two sites.

Following Yarmouth being chosen as one of eight sites nationally for large casinos, Mr Wright said he would also be writing to Richard Packham, chief executive of the borough council, to question the role of councillors in choosing the site.

A casino advisory panel, set up to review the options, has three leading councillors on it - council leader Barry Coleman, Cabinet member Bert Collins and labour leader Trevor Wainwright - and the ultimate decision will be taken by the cabinet.

Mr Wright said because the council owned the Golden Mile site, it could throw up “all sorts of issues and problems” if members had a role in choosing the site.

However, Mark Barrow, the council's deputy chief executive, said the cabinet would be guided by the independent consultants' report as well as the views of the panel, which was made up of a cross-section of the community. He said: “If democratically elected members in the cabinet can't make the decision, who else can?”