Tesco bosses explain plans for store in Hellesdon pub

Bosses at supermarket giant Tesco have revealed why they want to turn a former pub into its 16th store in or around Norwich – and said 20 jobs would be created by the switch.

Months of speculation over the future of The Firs pub in Hellesdon came to an end last week after it emerged Tesco wanted to open a new Express store in the Cromer Road building.

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

News of the superstore's possible arrival has received a mixed reaction in Hellesdon, with some welcoming the move, but others worried other shops could suffer.

But a spokesman for Tesco today said, as well as creating around 20 new jobs for local people, the new store would stop the former Firs pub from becoming derelict.

A spokesman said: 'The pub has closed down and the Tesco development will bring the site back into use, giving certainty to the area and stopping the building remaining empty or becoming derelict.

'We build stores where we believe they will be busy and popular. Shoppers in Norwich have a wide range of shops to choose from and we are pleased each day when many of them choose to shop with Tesco.

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'The Cromer Road shop will be a convenience store offering a good range of great value food and household basics. These smaller shops, close to where people live are a popular alternative to driving to a large supermarket, which was especially the case in the recent bad weather.'

Peter Balcombe, who represents Hellesdon South East on Broadland District Council, revealed last week that he had written to Tesco to see if the company would be prepared to provide a crossing over the busy A140 road.

He said: 'As a public house, very few people were crossing the busy road there, but a successful store would increase pedestrian traffic flow and it would only be a matter of time before a child or one of Hellesdon's many elderly people came to grief there.'

The Tesco spokesman said: 'We always try and work positively with local councils. We would be very happy to meet with local representatives to listen to any feedback they have and discuss their views about the road crossing.'

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 eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk