Former Hellesdon pub to open as supermarket tomorrow

A former pub will be reopening its doors to the public but it will be shoppers and not drinkers who will walking through the entrance.

Months of speculation over the future of the Firs pub in Hellesdon, which closed in September last year, ended in December when Tesco revealed it planned to open a new store at the site.

And the supermarket giant will be officially opening a Tesco Express store in the building on Cromer Road tomorrow<fri/15>, providing a boost for job hunters as well as shoppers.

The store, which has created around 20 jobs for local people, received about 200 applications for just five new jobs - more than 50 applications for every vacancy.

Ian Brown, store manager, said: 'I was thrilled by the response we received to our recruitment drive. In this time of economic uncertainty, it is great that we are able to create jobs and help get people back into work. 'I am really pleased with my new team and I'm looking forward to working with my new staff. We are delighted to be opening a Tesco Express store in Norwich and look forward to playing an active role in the local community.'

The store, which recruited its new staff locally and worked in conjunction with the local Job Centre Plus, will open its doors at 8am tomorrow and will be open from 6am to 11pm, seven days a week.

As reported in the Evening News, Tesco did not need planning permission for the store itself, as the pub is already deemed suitable for retail use, but did need to get approval from Broadland District Council for alterations, signs and a cash machine.

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Derek McDonald, Norwich pub historian, said: 'I'm pleased it's not being knocked down - at least we will be able to go past and say it used to be a pub - but the thing I'm frightened of more than anything is Tesco seem to be taking over. They just seem to want to get in and convert pubs into Tescos and that does bother me because they are going to sell cheap booze which is the reason pubs shut in the first place.'

Built in 1933, the Firs pub was closely linked with the Firs Stadium which played host to the Norwich Stars speedway team and attracted tens of thousands of visitors every week.

But in recent times, The Firs pub had a troubled time, with two people arrested in relation to alleged drugs offences in March. Staff said they had tried to clean up its image and had worked with police to tackle the problems, but in August it closed again. The pub briefly reopened, but shut again in September when it closed its doors for good.

Earlier this year, Tesco confirmed it was interested in opening a store at the site of another former city pub – the Dial – on the corner of Dereham Road and Old Palace Road.

What do you think of the growth in Tesco stores around Norwich? Is it a good or bad thing? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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