Former Norwich bingo hall to be demolished

A former popular bingo hall in Norwich is to be demolished, sparking hopes for further investment and improvements in the prime city centre location.

The Mecca Bingo building, in All Saints Green, was closed earlier this year after major structural problems were discovered, with the repair bill considered to be too high.

However, plans have now been submitted to Norwich City Council to knock-down the former cinema, opened in 1932, which has prompted renewed hope for pedestrianisation or new buildings in the area.

If the demolition is approved, it will be the latest step in an encouraging few months for the area. John Lewis unveiled a �7 million revamp last month while the 11-storey Westlegate House was purchased last summer after standing empty for 15 years.

Richard Marks, general manager of John Lewis, said: 'We don't know the detail of what's planned at the bingo site but I think from our point of view any regeneration has to be good news for this bit of the city, Westlegate and the city generally.

'The whole Westlegate area is in need of some investment and we are very much in favour. Anything that helps link this part of the city with the rest and helps people navigate their way through has to be encouraging.'

Bert Bremner, Norwich City Council cabinet member for planning and transport, said: 'I am interested to see whether the old Gaumont Cinema design is underneath the cladding. The area was a thriving hub of Norwich and there's now a regeneration aspect to it, which is very positive.'

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The land is currently owned by London-based Telereal Trillium, although Mecca Bingo still holds the lease.

Telereal Trillium says it will look at the future of the land 'shortly', although the matter of demolition is a priority because of the building's condition.

As previously reported, 27 staff were expected to lose their jobs following the hall's closure.

Lesly Clifford, Mecca Bingo spokesman, said seven people who worked at the All Saints Green bingo hall had been transferred to other sites run by the company with the rest finding employment elsewhere.

She added there was no detail about future plans for the land.

A free bus service is advertised at the All Saints Green venue, informing customers they will be taken to the nearest site at Aylsham Road.

Guy Gowing, managing partner of Arnolds chartered surveyors, in Prince of Wales Road, said the land could be used for an Aviva expansion with the company's offices surrounding the site. It is understood this is not something Aviva is considering.

Mr Gowing added: 'It's not really a great retail position along the street because there is not the passing trade. It may be opposite John Lewis but not the busy part. I think office use would be the best use. As a development site it could sell for up to �500,000.'

A decision on the demolition is expected by the city council within the next eight weeks. A separate application will be required if the owners wish to build a new development.

The area is believed to have been subject to bombing during the Second World War.

Mark Leach, environmental protection manager at the city council, in his submission about the demolition proposal, said: 'Although not strictly within the environmental health remit, I suggest that a risk assessment/contingency plan is considered to cover the event of discovery of unexploded ordnance. It may be that the demolition method does not propose to break the ground and therefore such risks may be eliminated.'

What would you like to see the building become? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect Huse, Rouen Road, Norwch, NR1 1 RE or email