Sell off to 'Spoons would have been as bad as Gordon Brown's gold giveaway, council boss claims
PUBLISHED: 08:34 25 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:11 25 July 2019
Turning over the heritage-listed former town council offices in North Walsham to JD Wetherspoon would have been as bad as "Gordon Brown's disastrous selling off of our gold reserves at less than their proper worth".
The pronouncement was made at Wednesday's North Norfolk District Council full meeting by leader Sarah Butikofer, who said plans to sell the building to the pub chain for less than its market value would have been a mistake.
Mrs Butikofer said: "We have no problems with Wetherspoons taking over part of the site if that is the best option, but that has to be done with a proper return for the council taxpayers of north Norfolk. This is their money and we need to act responsibly with it.
"Would you sell one of your own assets for less than its market value? I doubt it."
Mrs Butikofer said the council had looked at the site and was now considering all options for the building and adjacent land to see how it would best benefit the town.
MORE: Plan for new Wetherspoon now 'off the table'
She added: "Importantly, we are working with representatives of the local community to do this, rather than delivering a fait acompli."
Wetherspoon first proposed buying North Walsham's now former town council office in New Road in 2014. While many supported the plan, it drew criticism from residents of nearby Cedar Court, who were worried about noise and anti-social behaviour.
A contract for Wetherspoon to pursue the purchase of the site was agreed in 2016, but the plans were then delayed over a right-of-way dispute.
A number of residents feared a cut-through on the site linking Hall Lane and New Road would be cut off, forcing them to go around "dangerously narrow" alternative route.
But the council said these issues were resolved in 2017, and on February 4 they threw down the gauntlet and urged the pub chain to get a move on.
The authority later declared they would explore other options for the site.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told this newspaper at the end of June: "We are as keen as ever to open a pub on the site."
He added that the company was "extremely frustrated" with the delay, "given the time and cost put into the project".