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£1.6m alternative to Wetherspoon's in Norfolk town

PUBLISHED: 13:41 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 04 March 2019

The former North Walsham Town Council office, which JD Wetherspoon plans to turn into a pub. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The former North Walsham Town Council office, which JD Wetherspoon plans to turn into a pub. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

An alternative plan should JD Wetherspoon not move into North Walsham has been drawn up by a local businessman.

Businessman Robert Scammell has come up with an alternative plan for the New Road site.  Picture: RICHARD BATSONBusinessman Robert Scammell has come up with an alternative plan for the New Road site. Picture: RICHARD BATSON

Robert Scammell, who already runs Cafe Kitale in the town, wants to put a pub/restaurant into the former town council office, and build a small cinema at the nearby car park. He said the £1.6m investment would create about 30 new jobs

North Norfolk District Council said last week that “final issues” that had stopped the pub chain project moving forward for years had been sorted out, and an exchange of contracts was imminent.

Nigel Lloyd, the council’s environment and property executive member, said at a full council meeting on February 27 that the authority was ready to exchange contracts.

But Wetherpoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said today that they had “not yet” exchanged contracts.

Robert Scammell runs Cafe Kitale, in North Walsham, which was previously used for the filming of a History Channel docudrama. 
Photo: Paula CrossleyRobert Scammell runs Cafe Kitale, in North Walsham, which was previously used for the filming of a History Channel docudrama. Photo: Paula Crossley

In the meantime, Mr Scammell is drawing up an alternative plan for the New Road site to put pressure on the pub chain and district council.

He said: “I know how popular Wetherspoon’s is with some people, and I’m slightly worried this might backfire on me.

“We could not offer the same prices as Wetherspoon, but I think we could offer something overall, with a cinema, that would benefit the town. The Atrium in North Walsham shows films, but they mainly tend to be older films. We would also source local food and drink.”

He said people wanted the long-running saga resolved.

He added: “It would be a three-way partnership with myself as the operator, plus a partner who specialises in catering, and a Norfolk-based start-up company that deals in small cinemas.

“The car park to the side of the building would be a 600 sq m purpose-built cinema while the main building would be converted into a family pub and restaurant.”

A contract for Wetherspoon to pursue the purchase of the site was agreed in 2016, but the plans were delayed over a right-of-way dispute.

Last month the district council urged the pub chain to make its intentions clear.

Mr Gershon said their aim had always been to open a pub in the town, and that was still the case.

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