AN EYESORE building devastated by fire six years ago is set to be restored with the creation of at least 20 new jobs.
The former Jade Garden restaurant has blighted the town centre landscape since being gutted by fire in November 2008 following an electrical fault.
Since then it has been a constant cause of complaint for residents, councillors and neighbouring businesses, who first raised concerns about scaffolding covering the building and then the current hoarding damaging the appearance of Church Green, which is a conservation area.
Now a deal has been struck with pizza chain Papa John’s to take part of the restaurant, creating 20 new jobs, with another food operator in talks about taking over the remaining space which could generate another ten positions.
But the deal was almost sunk at the eleventh hour due to a planning wrangle over the fascia above the shop front, which planners wanted reduced even though owner Affy Qadeer argued it would cost up to £10,000 and also cause structural problems.
Posters appeared on the front of the hoarding to Jade Garden earlier this week with slogans including ‘Danger 30 new jobs at risk here’ and ‘keep calm, see sense, create jobs’ in a bid to alert the public to the situation.
The row was eventually resolved and it is hoped the building will be back in use before Christmas.
The Standard approached Mr Qadeer for comment but he declined at the present time.
A council spokeswoman said following a meeting on Wednesday (November 12) a new proposal had been tabled which was cheaper to implement but was still good design from a conservation perspective.
She added the amended plans would be subject to public scrutiny for three weeks and unless objections were raised they would be approved by early December.
“We will always encourage businesses to take up occupancy in the town but also have a duty to improve and enhance the conservation areas alongside this.”
Dean Corrigan, owner of neighbouring business Heaphy’s, said he was overjoyed to hear the hoarding was finally coming down.
“The state of the building has had an awful impact on my business over the last six years and hopefully this will generate more footfall for the area.”
It is not the first time the Jade Garden has been engulfed in a planning row. In January 2011 councillors granted officers the power to take legal action after an order to reinstate the building had not been complied with. But two months later then planning enforcement officer Iain Mackay admitted they had been ‘unrealistic’ in the amount of time they had given for improvements to be made.
A year later the building was damaged by fire for a second time after bitumen being used by workers on the roof caught fire.