Two banks blocked from moving into Yarmouth Market Place
Two banking giants hoping to establish 'flagship' branches in Market Place have had the door slammed in their face by planning councillors.
Barclays planned a �1.2m investment in the former M&Co store, and Lloyds hoped to spend up to �750,000 moving into the current Burtons unit.
But their approach sparked an outcry from retailers who feared 'irreparable damage' to the town centre by reducing the number of shops on offer.
Councillors were split, but a majority agreed with concerns and voted to reject the two separate applications against officers' advice.
The banks could now appeal the decision, amid fears Great Yarmouth Borough Council will face a bill running into 'hundreds of thousands of pounds'.
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Harris Kasuchi, planning consultant for Lloyds, had presented the vision for Burtons site to Tuesday's meeting.
It would see the current Market Place and Hall Quay branches of Lloyds merge at 1 and 2 King Street. Mr Kasuchi said the bank had operated from Market Place since 1859, and attracts 'as much, if not more, footfall than Marks & Spencer.'
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Lloyds would pay to upgrade the dated Burtons store frontage, and he said 'there is no evidence the bank would harm the vitality of the town centre.'
But Bruce Sturrock, chairman of Palmers department store, said allowing the banks to take over two prime retail units would sound a death knell for the town centre.
'Most people in Yarmouth accept the town centre is currently suffering from past planning mistakes which allowed mushrooming out of the town centre and a rival town centre at Gapton Hall.Burtons and M&Co are two of only a handful of sites that are the right size and location for major retailers, so it's critical they remain as retail.
'You will be making a really big mistake if you let this one slip through, and we will be living with it for many years to come.'
Jonathan Newman, manager of the Town Centre Partnership, added reducing the current level of just 57pc retail will bring Market Place 'perilously close to the tipping point'.
A letter from Arcadia Group, owners of Burtons, was circulated to councillors detailing reasons for the store closure. But Charles Reynolds, councillor for Ormesby ward, said the only reason Burtons was looking to go was 'they've had a good offer' from the bank.
He was incredulous at suggestions Lloyds attracts more people to the town centre than M&S.
He said: 'People are attracted by shops and not banks. I don't know if there's an attempt to frighten us with an appeal and costs, but it's time to stand up for Great Yarmouth.
'Let's put up a good fight.'
Mick Castle stood down as chairman of the planning committee, declaring an interest as a member of the Town Centre Partnership, but implored councillors to approve the applications.
He said the investment showed faith in Yarmouth, and urged councillors to vote on planning grounds and not on 'emotion'. He vowed if the matter did come to appeal, he would be 'more than happy to be a witness for the applicants'.
Barry Coleman, councillor for West Flegg, added his voice to those calling to kick out the bank applications.
'I think this is the tipping point and it's useful that the two applications came together otherwise you get a creeping effect,' he said. 'If we always followed officers' decisions there would be no need for these meetings.'
Mr Reynolds moved to reject the Lloyds application, seconded by Mr Coleman. It was carried by eight votes to three. Councillors who voted for the motion were: Charles Reynolds, George Jermany, Barry Cuniffe, David Thompson, Mary Coleman, Barry Coleman, Jamie Smith and Marlene Fairhead. Three voted against: Tony Blyth, John Holmes and Marie Field.
Kerry Robinson-Payne abstained.
The second application, for Barclays to move into 40 to 42 Market Place, M&Co, was heard next.
Matthew Claxton, for Barclays, said the branch would represent a �1.2m investment and would attract footfall through new ATMs.
Mr Reynolds said the closure of the Trafalgar Road branch of Barclays - merging at the new branch - would be an 'enormous blow' for the seafront. But with the precedent set by the Lloyds application, debate was short and the application rejected.Voting was similar as for the Lloyds application, but Jamie Smith abstained.
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