Lease set to be signed to aid North Walsham Wetherspoon opening

North Walsham Town Council offices.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

North Walsham Town Council offices.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A 10-year lease agreement is set to be signed which will help speed up JD Wetherspoon's plans to open in North Walsham.

The deal will mean North Walsham Town Council could move out of its present New Road offices before the summer, making way for the national pub giant's planned £1.6m conversion into a family restaurant, creating up to 50 jobs.

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC), which owns the building, says that 'within the next few weeks' it expects to sign a lease with Norfolk County Council for an alternative town council home in North Walsham's register office, on King's Arms Street.

John Rest, NNDC cabinet member for assets, said: 'Attracting new jobs to North Walsham and improving the shopping and leisure facilities in the town is a priority.

'We want to ensure that wherever possible we attract additional investment to the area and improve the shops and town centre for residents and visitors.'

NNDC is currently in talks with North Norfolk Community Transport (NNCT) and the Citizens Advice Bureau, which are also based at the New Road offices, to try and find them new homes too so that the New Road property is empty in time for the proposed sale to Wetherspoon which NNDC believes will submit planning and licensing applications for the site once there is certainty over the proposed sale.

NNCT chief Matt Townsend said they were negotiating for a new site on the town's industrial estate and he was confident they would be able to move out at about the same time as the town council.

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Vivienne Uprichard, a Liberal Democrat district councillor for the New Road area, criticised NNDC for unnecessarily delaying the project.

Mrs Uprichard said the register office had been an option for a long time but had been ignored by NNDC in favour of its plan to buy and convert the former doctors' surgery on Northfield Road into a new home for the existing New Road tenants.

That plan fell through when the NHS rejected NNDC's offer which was below the asking price.

'Clearly the NHS wasn't going to accept less than the market value,' said Mrs Uprichard.

'If NNDC hadn't wasted so much time pursuing Northfield Road, we might have resolved this by now. I am very disappointed.'

Fellow Lib Dem Eric Seward, a county and district councillor for North Walsham, told Tuesday's annual town meeting that he feared the New Road building, prominent in the town conservation area, would become neglected and an eyesore if it stayed empty for any length of time after it was vacated.