Pub chain’s latest bid to build hotel and retail units is refused

The Thatchers Needle in Diss. Picture: Marc Betts

The Thatchers Needle in Diss. Picture: Marc Betts - Credit: Archant

A major pub chain has been knocked back in its latest attempt to develop land around one of its Norfolk locations.

Christopher Kemp, Conservative candidate for Cringleford

Christopher Kemp, Conservative candidate for Cringleford - Credit: Archant

Marston's, which owns the Thatchers Needle pub in Diss, has long held the ambition to make use of land surrounding the pub on Park Road, with plans for a 27-bedroom hotel and retail units making up the latest proposals.

The chain had previously missed out on a similar scheme, which was rejected by South Norfolk Council and then also lost at appeal.

Now, its latest bid has also failed, after members of South Norfolk Council's planning committee voted with the recommendation of officers to refuse it.

The scheme would have seen a 27-bedroom hotel built on land next to the pub, along with six retail units and an extension to the site's car park.

However, after concerns were raised about how the retail units could potentially drive business away from the town centre, it was refused.

Martin Robson, who was representing Marston's at the meeting, said: 'We have committed significant resources to working on this application, with the aim being to diversify what Diss has to offer.

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'Our proposal was to help enhance the retail offering of Diss, not hinder it.'

However, Eric Taylor, of Diss Town Council, told the committee footfall in the town centre is as low as it had been since 2009, and this could further exacerbate this.

He said: 'We believe it could draw people away from the high street, during a time we want to be improving it.'

Keith Kiddle, Conservative councillor for Diss, told the committee he felt the retail units were the only part of the plans he objected to and that were it just for a hotel there would not be an issue.

However, seven of the eight councillors sitting on the committee voted to refuse the plans, with one abstention.

Christopher Kemp, one of the voting members, said he felt the plans were 'out of character with the surrounding area'.

Following the decision, Mr Robson declined to give comment or indicate whether Marston's would again be seeking to appeal the council's decision.