The group behind a £3 million project to revitalise the historic centre of Diss says an application for four retail stores off the A1066 will only bring benefit if it is “substantially revised”.
Pub chain Marston’s wants to develop the site behind their Thatcher’s Needle pub with four non-food retail units.
Diss Heritage Partnership’s initial comments on the application to South Norfolk Council were a recommendation of refusal on the plans, citing a lack of social and leisure benefits, and the “detrimental impact” on the centre of the town.
But in further documentation submitted to the authority last week, while the Diss Heritage Partnership still recommends the proposal to be thrown out, they say should the application be “substantially revised”, it could bring “a degree” of community benefit.
Sheila Moss King, programme manager for the Diss Heritage Triangle and Diss Corn Hall Project, told the Diss Express: “It would inevitably compete with the shops and businesses in the in the Heritage Triangle.
“What we are trying to do is create awareness and footfall in the Heritage Triangle so that people will come and see the wonderful independent businesses that are really offering a great service and this just runs completely counter to it.
“I still think that it would be very disappointing to see that kind of development on that side of the town but at least if they (the recommended amendments) were implemented it would help offset the damage.
“I doubt that we would greet it with enthusiasm regardless.”
The group has identified a number of revisions to the proposals which, if implemented, they believe might help the town.
These include free parking being offered on the site for up to three hours, provision or funding of a landscaped pedestrian footway along the entire east side of the site and the bus station with the allocation of the land in public ownership, actual retail uses are defined, and the design of the site “greatly improved”.
Others mentioned are an enlarged and improved bus station, and, if funding from the developer could be secured, the purchase, planting and fencing of an extension of the landscape strip between Morrisons and the electricity substation to connect with the Waveney riverine walk, Boudicca Way, and a possible future riverine wildlife park.
It is rumoured that Screwfix and Argos are among those interested in the units, should planning permission be granted.
But a spokesperson for Screwfix told the Diss Express: “We currently have no plans to open a store in Diss, Norfolk. However, we are looking at opening a further 200 stores and Diss could be a potential area for our expanding network.”
Argos had not responded at the time of going to press.