Shop switch in troubled North Walsham precinct backed by planners

A bid to convert a shop into a day centre in North Walsham's trouble-hit shopping precinct is set to get the go-ahead from planners.

Traders are voicing objections to the switch for fear of losing another retail outlet in St Nicholas Court where only a handful of shops are still trading after a string of closures.

But a report to planners is backing the change of use because it would bring 'additional activity and investment' to the downtrodden area.

Elizabeth Fitzroy Support are behind the conversion plan at the former butcher's shop. The charity wants to use it as a day centre for its work helping adults with learning and physical disabilities.

The local chamber of trade has objected saying any loss of shops from a shopping precinct should only be a last resort.

Last month the plight of the precinct was highlighted by the News.

The pedestrian area is ringed with empty shops with whitewashed windows and 'to let' signs.

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Mayor Anne Rose said it looked like the Marie Celeste. A trader said it was 'dying on its feet,' and a former jeweller linked its decline to allowing units to fall into non-shop use.

But the town council has supported the change of use, saying the proposal could bring more people into the precinct.

North Norfolk District Council's development control committee will debate the issue on Thursday April 14. A report recommending approval admits the day centre use goes against planning policy for the core town centre area.

But it adds 'while it could be argued it is inappropriate, it is considered the proposal would bring additional activity and investment to this area, and therefore should be treated as an acceptable exception to policy, having regard to the current economic climate.'

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