Planners to decide on casino plan

THE first contender to enter the ring in the battle for Great Yarmouth's large casino licence looks poised to win planning approval later this week for an architecturally striking scheme called The Edge, next to the outer harbour site.

THE first contender to enter the ring in the battle for Great Yarmouth's large casino licence looks poised to win planning approval later this week for an architecturally striking scheme called The Edge, next to the outer harbour site.

A decision on the £35m casino and leisure complex proposed by Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones was deferred at last month's meeting of the borough council's development control committee because of concerns raised by English Heritage over the impact the development's six-storey hotel might have on the grade one listed Nelson's Monument.

Independent planning consultant Richard Wingate, commissioned to avoid any accusations of bias, has stuck with his original recommendation to approve the scheme in his fresh report.

However, before the special meeting on Thursday when the decision will be taken, committee members will be joined by a representative from English Heritage on a tour of the town to assess possible impacts on the South Denes monument.

Development consultant Karen Hawes expressed disappointment that English Heritage was maintaining its objections as it had already reduced the height of the planned hotel from eight to six floors and, since the last meeting, had changed the position of the proposed car park.

At the last meeting, the scheme's planning consultant, Nick Laister, had pointed out that the monument was 250m away from the proposed hotel site and that Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square was surrounded by six office blocks within 70m.

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Despite speculation that other developers might be interested in building a casino complex on a council-owned Golden Mile site currently occupied by the Marina Centre, and rumours of interest in river bank sites as well, no other schemes have yet reached the formal planning stage.

Mr Jones has linked with leading casino operator Aspers to develop his scheme, which is projected to create about 1,000 jobs.

As well as delivering the only large casino on the East Coast, the proposal includes a 138-room four-star hotel, eight-screen cinema, 18-lane bowling alley, six restaurants and restaurant terraces, and four storeys of car parking for 832 vehicles.

If planning approval is granted, Mr Jones will have to tackle the next hurdle of licensing, which is likely to take at least 18 months.

While recommending approval, Mr Wingate notes in his report that the committee will have to weigh the impact on traffic, residents and existing businesses as well as the effect on the monument.