Wetherspoon work could begin next month

By Becky Brooks in Community News

After years of waiting, pub giant chain, J D Wetherspoon, have this week confirmed to The Journal that land access issues, which were holding up the development, have been resolved. Whilst there are still no confirmed on site or opening dates from the company, the spokesperson added that work could begin as soon as next month.

We first reported on Wetherspoon setting its sights on the town back in January 2015, with a projected development cost to convert the old Palladium Cinema, in Midsomer Norton High Street, of £2 million.

It is thought up to 45 staff could be employed as a result of the development when it finally opens.

The subject has been a hot topic in the town ever since the announcement in 2015, with some viewing the chain’s involvement with the town as a means of boosting its economy; both during the day, and in the evenings. Of course, not everyone was thrilled at the news, including local pubs and cafés, who will be competing against the national chain.

The Palladium started off life as part of the ‘Smiths Brewery’, which has a foundation stone from 1861. The Brewery failed in the 1880s, and whilst Welton Brewery bought the site, the Barrel Store was eventually purchased by William Beauchamp, to create a state-of-the-art hall for his passion for choral music in the 1890s.

As fashion in entertainment moved on, the site re-opened its doors as the Empire in 1913 and became the Palladium Electric in 1915, making it one of the country’s oldest cinemas. Fully converted into the Palladium in 1934 in the Art Deco Style, (now lost) it was part of local life for the coming decades.

The last owners of the Palladium as a cinema were Ken and Shirley Steel, who first became involved with the building in 1944, when Ken began working on the projectors as a ‘rewind boy’. Sadly, with tough economic times and competition from video and television, the Steels were forced to close the doors in 1993 – the last film screened being ‘Cinema Paradiso’, all about a small town’s love affair with a cinema.

The site was later bought by then Moonjuice nightclub owner, Martin Sawyer, who died in a car accident in 2004 before his plans could be realised. In 2008, Bath and North East Somerset Council gave planning permission for the change of use of the Palladium, but detailed plans for a new nightclub ran in to difficulty due to licensing restrictions and residential developments around the site, with it then being sold to J D Wetherspoon in 2015. In turn, Wetherspoon have faced problems, including bats in the derelict building, and crucially, access issues due to complicated land ownership, which has taken a great deal of negotiation to resolve.

Speaking to The Journal this week about the potential of work finally beginning on site in the town, Councillor Paul Myers, B&NES Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration and Mayor of Midsomer Norton, said: “I welcome the news that J D Wetherspoon will be going ahead with a new development in the centre of the town.

“This critical site at the heart of Midsomer Norton has lain derelict for decades, when it should have been playing its part as the retail centre of the Somer Valley.

“The resolution at last of the land issues is a significant first step in the redevelopment of Midsomer Norton town centre, and I would like to thank both parties for staying at the negotiating table through thick and thin, as they sought to resolve complex boundary issues resulting from nearly 150 years of land transactions.

“Looking to the future, an investment on this scale is a vote of confidence in Midsomer Norton’s huge potential.

“I believe this development will help not only bring people to the town, but it will also help attract other big names to boost the local daytime and night time economy.

“In short, it is fantastic that something looks set to happen with this site, moving the town forward.”