Odeon and Travelodge sign up to be part of Great Yarmouth’s large casino complex

WORK on ambitious plans to 'put the Great back into Great Yarmouth' by creating a large casino, eight-screen multiplex cinema, hotels and popular high street restaurants will begin by the end of the year, according to the man behind the vision.

It was announced last Friday that Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones had won the town's large casino licence after a five-year battle.

The �35m project, The Edge, will see a large casino, hotel, restaurants, multi-screen cinema and 600-space car park built South Beach Parade between the Pleasure Beach and the Outer Harbour. Travelodge and Odeon have already signed up to be a part of the project.

Mr Jones, managing director of Pleasure and Leisure, dedicated the successful bid to his father, Jimmy, who died in March. His company went up against local rival Patrick Duffy who owns the Palace Casino in Church Plain.

Mr Jones spoke in detail this week about his grand plans but admitted: 'I was surprised when I found out we had won the licence. I wasn't confident. We received our point-scoring the week before and were concerned with some areas of it. You could get up to 1,500 points for deliverability but we only scored 475.'

Applications were also assessed on jobs created and benefits to the town. Mr Jones estimates around 300 full and part-time jobs, including a number of apprenticeships, will be created.

'I have been working on this project to get a scheme on site for 12 years. We have had planning permission and the freehold for the site for five years. Apart from a bit of fine-tuning we are very advanced. The plans have come out the way I wanted. It's not an easy site because it's long and narrow. We wanted to take advantage of the lovely views.'

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Mr Jones anticipates building work will start by the end of the year, though a contractor has not yet been appointed. He said: 'Part of the development will go on the south end of the Pleasure Beach and work will start as soon as we close in October. We need to relocate the monorail but we won't lose any of the attractions.'

The casino, cinema, 80-room Travelodge and restaurants will be built first. The second phase will see a luxury four star 150-room hotel built on the site.

'We are dealing with The Restaurant Group which operates Nando's and Frankie and Benny's. The final list will be decided later. Original plans included a bowling alley but bowling has taken a downturn in the economic climate. Although we have not ruled it out completely,' Mr Jones said.

Although Pleasure and Leisure can operate the casino themselves, they have been approached by a number of gaming firms.

Mr Jones said: 'We have casinos in town already but this will be a new type of gaming experience. There will be live entertainment and restaurants and a spa so it's an evening or a day experience.'

'The first large casino has opened in Stratford and I understand it has been trading really well. The Edge will be a scaled-down version of a Las Vegas casino. It will be a relaxed, controlled environment.

'We held meetings with Community Action for Responsible Gaming (CARG), Samaritans and Gamcare to make sure that we have procedures in place.'

Mr Jones hopes the new complex will encourage more people to spend their weekends in Yarmouth. He added: 'I am very grateful to people for their support and from the businesses in town - the Yarmouth Racecourse, the Sealife Centre and Yarmouth Stadium. Without their support we would not be where we are today.

'I am very excited about it. It will put the Great back into Great Yarmouth.'

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