Tensions mount over casino site

STEPHEN PULLINGER Two of Yarmouth's entertainment titans last night found themselves squaring up over the location of the resort's multi-million pound large casino.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Two of Yarmouth's entertainment titans last night found themselves squaring up over the location of the resort's multi-million pound large casino.

As tensions mounted over whether the casino should be on the South Denes next to the Pleasure Beach theme park or in a central position on the Golden Mile, Hippodrome impresario Peter Jay last night announced his intention to try to usurp Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones' seat on the Yarmouth Tourist Authority board.

Former pop star Mr Jay believes that building the casino on South Denes would have the same effect on the Golden Mile as out-of-town shops on the town centre.

However, Mr Jones, who is leading a consortium planning to build the casino as the centre of a multi-million pound entertainment complex on wasteland next to his theme park said the disruption over two or three years of building it on the Golden Mile “would kill the resort”.

Mr Jay has canvassed the views of other seafront traders and is confident of support in his bid to become resort services director when tourist authority members vote on four board positions after their annual meeting on Wednesday.

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Denying any personal animosity with Mr Jones, he said: “The tourist authority will not decide where the casino goes but it will have some input. There is currently no one from the Golden Mile on the board, except Albert who owns an arcade, and a feeling among people on the seafront that they have not been consulted about a lot of the things happening. I hope I can influence it more from the inside.”

Mr Jay, who owns several other landmark buildings on the Golden Mile, including the former Windmill Theatre, said the news earlier this year that Yarmouth was to have one of only eight large casinos in the country was “the moment I have been waiting for all my life”.

The casino - calculated to bring 1,500 new jobs and £40m extra in tourist revenue annually - represented a “golden opportunity” and the decision on the location was one that would have an impact for generations.

He said: “The Golden Mile site owned by the council is huge and must be the most attractive development site at any major seaside town in Britain. Everyone I speak to on the seafront wants the casino here.”

Mr Jay said the combination of the large casino, the only one on the east coast, and the perfect location gave the town an opportunity to strike a deal for a wonderful seafront development, perhaps replacing the Marina Centre with fabulous new leisure facilities and embracing anything from luxury housing to even a marina.

Mr Jones, whose family has run the Pleasure Beach for 50 years, refuted any suggestion that he faced a conflict of interests as a board member.

He said the tourist authority would have no influence on the council cabinet decision where the casino went, and, in any event, when he went to authority meetings he firmly put his “Yarmouth resident's hat on”.

Mr Jones, whose plans for the casino also include a multiplex cinema, bowling alleys and restaurants, said even if he had no personal involvement he would still see his site as the best for the town, bringing regeneration and jobs to one of Yarmouth's worst areas of deprivation.

His development would also extend the seafront and be strategically placed as the gateway to the outer harbour.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright opened up the debate earlier this week when he stated his preference for Mr Jones' site, out of the two most likely options.