Press Statement on J D Wetherspoons
At its meeting on Tuesday 27 January, North Walsham Town Council set its Council Tax precept for 2015/16 at £189,323 - this includes a government grant of £19,275 and equates to £46.68 per household, an increase of £0.59 or 1.28% over the 2014/15 amount.
This followed discussion of North Norfolk District Council's proposal to sell the Town Council's current New Road base to JD Wetherspoon for around £350,000. The Council was very clear that it was not opposed to JD Wetherspoon coming to the town. There was, however, disappointment at NNDC's stance that the money received would not be made available to create a community hub - in which the Town Council and other local organisations could base themselves - in the town as North Walsham "had already received significant benefit from District Council money". It was argued that NNDC, which is sitting on a £20 million capital reserve, should not be allowed to sell a town asset and then make residents pay for a replacement when it clearly does not need the money from the sale.
The Town Council was also disappointed at NNDC's apparent rush to sell prior to the May election, and to deliver vacant possession to the prospective buyer as soon as possible, when no planning application had been submitted. It had become apparent from legal advice received by the Town Council earlier in the afternoon that NNDC may be acting ultra vires in seeking to sell the New Road site before agreement is reached between the two authorities. Negotiations between the two authorities are set to continue once the Town Council has received further legal advice.
The lack of certainty over the legally-independent planning process, and the early stage and complexity of negotiations with NNDC, meant that the Town Council could not at this time justify a significant increase to its Council Tax Precept for the purchase or long term rental of property it may not need. It was agreed instead that the small increase agreed, together with the Council's reserve fund, should provide sufficient financial cover for any requirements that may arise by the end of 2015, when it is currently expected to vacate the New Road offices.
The North Walsham Council Tax precept, the town's element of the household Council Tax bill issued by NNDC, remains one of the lowest among towns in the district.