Major boost for �35m casino plan

LEADING Yarmouth businessman Albert Jones was last night celebrating news that his �35m plans to build the town's large casino have cleared their final planning hurdle.

LEADING Yarmouth businessman Albert Jones was last night celebrating news that his �35m plans to build the town's large casino have cleared their final planning hurdle.

The regional government body Go East has rubber-stamped the planning permission granted by the borough council's development control committee earlier this year.

Mr Jones declared himself “absolutely delighted” by the decision, which gives him a significant lead in the race to build the only large casino on the east coast.

Ahead of the borough council inviting applications for the casino licence in the autumn, his scheme, The Edge, is the only one with planning permission - none of the other possible contenders has even reached the stage of lodging plans for their proposed developments.

Mr Jones, who wants to build the large casino - one of eight nationally - as part of a major leisure complex next to the outer harbour, last night called on the council to speed up the process of granting the licence.

He said: “We have got plans that are deliverable. So long as we get the licence, we have all the finance in place for a scheme that will create 1,000 jobs and give a big boost to the whole of East Anglia, not just Yarmouth and the seafront.

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“We have an empty site that is another plus. From first going on site to being able to start operating would only take about 30 months.”

His plans for the South Denes site, next to the outer harbour, include a four-star 138-bedroom hotel, an eight-screen cinema, 18-lane bowling alley, six restaurants and parking for 842 vehicles as well as a casino operated by leading operator Aspers.

And he said: “Because of our strong planning position, we have attracted additional interest from other developers keen on doing different elements of the scheme, including the bowling alley and the hotel. They believe ours is the right operation in the right location.”

Chris Skinner, the borough council's head of legal services, confirmed the policy for issuing the casino licence would be agreed next month ahead of statutory adverts inviting applications being placed in the autumn.

He said there had been strong interest from developers at a casino open day in March and he expected competition for Mr Jones from other applicants.

Contenders were not obliged to have planning in place before they applied for the licence, and there would be adequate time for them to sort out planning permission before the council decided on the winner at the end of next year.

Rival Yarmouth businessman Patrick Duffy has already unveiled his own �35m scheme that would be centred on his existing Palace Casino, while at least three developers are known to be interested in building the casino on a borough council-owned site on the Golden Mile.

Mr Duffy stressed that he would not rush into an application for planning permission. Any scheme had to be a partnership between the developer, council and local people and it was important to thoroughly explore what leisure components the town needed.

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