Holt gets 60 days to settle planning saga

A town council has been given 60 days to decide whether or not it wants to buy a former public toilet block which has been at the centre of a long running row.

A town council has been given 60 days to decide whether or not it wants to buy a former public toilet block which has been at the centre of a long running row.

The Church Street toilets in Holt have been closed since September 2005, when they lost out in a north Norfolk wide review of public conveniences across the district.

Since then there have been petitions, protests, countless council reports and at times fiery debates about what happens next on the site, which controversially included the prospect of building a house or houses.

But a summertime refusal of a planning application in which the owners North Norfolk District Council wanted permission to build a detached house on the land went a long way to sealing the row - especially as the council is not allowed to appeal against such a decision, unlike private applicants.

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On Monday a district council cabinet meeting agreed to give Holt Town Council the chance to come up with a time-limited market value offer for the land, after which it would be put on to the open market.

Peter Moore, portfolio holder for resources at the district council, said the disagreement had become 'some sort of football' and it was time to bring matters to a close.

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'I suggest we go along with a private treaty option at this stage,' said Mr Moore.

'We don't give more than 60 days for the town council to come back to us and we say it has to be market value, which itself has yet to be established.'

Mr Moore said any offer would need to be 'realistic' and added that if a deal was struck it should include a covenant limiting future use to the benefit of the community.

Graham Jones said it needed to be clear exactly what the town council intended to do with the site if it decided to buy it.

But 60 days was about the right amount of time and would hopefully bring an end to the issue, added Mr Jones.

Fellow councillor Robin Coombe, who is not a member of cabinet but attended the meeting, encouraged the district to adopt a 'really positive attitude to help resolve a satisfactory conclusion'.

The town council, which has always called for the retention of the site for a possible community use, has done a feasibility study for a project which would include a social history centre, visitor and community information point and an office, with an upstairs business suite providing a source of income.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said every effort should be made to reach a reasonable agreement with the town council.

'This opens the door to the right resolution to this saga and to re-establish the public convenience facility, which I know the people in town want because we have asked them.'

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