Wetherspoons pub proposal divides opinion in North Walsham
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 October 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
Campaigners against a "crazy idea" to turn council offices into a pub have warned it would make life hell for elderly and frail neighbours.
Pub giant JD Wetherspoon is proposing to buy the New Road offices in North Walsham, home of the town council, and turn them into a restaurant and bar at a cost of £1.6m.
A petition containing 16 signatures of residents from nearby Cedar Court, which includes retirement apartments, against the application was highlighted at this week’s town council meeting.
Town crier and Cedar Court resident Roger Hopkinson, 72, told councillors: “I’m extremely concerned about this proposal to sell off this iconic and beautiful old building as a pub and restaurant.
“Our quality of life would be affected by increased noise and the likelihood of anti-social behaviour.
“If this crazy idea goes ahead, the last days of life for residents in the sheltered accommodation, would be hell.”
Residents in surrounding streets, including Saxon Court, Grove Road, Hall Lane and Vicarage Street, also signed the petition.
Councillors who debated the controversial application said local opinion was divided. They felt that many people supporting the idea were from outside North Walsham and look forward to having a good meeting place for a cheap pint and food.
Some councillors said the pub giant could attract other major businesses to the town, which is seeking to regenerate following trade problems.
But people against the idea, including town residents, were worried a Wetherspoons would hit trade in other pubs, restaurants and cafés potentially causing a loss of jobs.
Other concerns include current vacant business units not being big enough for big companies.
If approved, the town council and Citizens Advice Bureau, which shares land on the New Road site, would have to relocate.
The new business would create 50 new full time and part time jobs.
Member Gary Bull said Wetherspoons revamped buildings sympathetically.
Town councillor David Spencer said: “It could be good for competition in the town. It could buck other businesses’ ideas up. Once Wetherspoons locates to a town, other chains follow.”
He added the current town council offices were not “fit for purpose” and Norfolk County Councillor John Timewell, said the move could save the council money.
Mr Timewell added: “You have got the opportunity to get a major player into the town.”
The buildings are owned by North Norfolk District Council.
Town councillors agreed to fight to keep any sale money for North Walsham.
The possible financial agreement will be discussed by district council’s cabinet on Monday.
District council leader Tom FitzPatrick said the authority would negotiate for the best possible price.
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