Casino plans set for go-ahead

The race to build the only large casino on the East coast will be stepped up later this week when Yarmouth councillors consider plans for a GBP 35m casino and leisure complex next to the resort’s Pleasure Beach.

The borough council’s development control committee is being recommended to support the scheme – predicted to create about 1,000 jobs – in a report prepared by independent planning consultant Richard Wingate, especially commissioned to avoid any accusations of bias.

Ahead of Thursday’s Town Hall meeting, Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones, whose company Pleasure and Leisure is spearheading the scheme, said he felt planning approval would put him in pole position to clinch the town’s prized large casino licence, one of eight to have been granted across the country under the new gambling legislation.

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, Mr Jones described these possibilities as “pie in the sky” until formal plans were submitted.

He even raised the possibility that, given the credit crunch, his proposed development – to be called The Edge – might be the only one to be taken forward, and if that turned out to be the case it would simplify and speed up the licensing process.

He pledged that his firm was ready to put the plans in motion and, subject to planning and licensing hurdles, the complex could be open inside four years.

Mr Jones, who has teamed up with leading casino operator Aspers and development consultant Karen Hawes to deliver the scheme on wasteland between his attraction park and the outer harbour, has slightly amended the plans that were unveiled at the end of last year.

A proposed four-star hotel, originally billed as 180 rooms, has been slightly downscaled to 138 rooms, to be built on six floors, instead of eight floors, above the casino.

The complex would include an eight-screen cinema, an 18-lane bowling alley, six restaurants and restaurant terraces, and four storeys of car parking for 832 vehicles.

The planning report documents an objection from English Heritage, concerned about the impact of the original plan for the hotel, and worries from local residents about noise and nuisance.

However, the urban regeneration company 1st East and the East of England Development Agency both support the plans in principle, and county highways has no objections subject to conditions being imposed over the impact of traffic.

The report notes that the committee will have to balance the introduction of new jobs and visitors and benefit to the town’s profile against the possible impact on established tourist facilities and the town centre.