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Portuguese community base planned

PUBLISHED: 11:26 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 11:09 08 July 2010

New plans for a one stop shop for Thetford's Portuguese community have been drawn up after a scheme for a restaurant and dance hall threw a spanner in the works last year.

New plans for a one stop shop for Thetford's Portuguese community have been drawn up after a scheme for a restaurant and dance hall threw a spanner in the works last year.

Susana Forte Vaz has applied for permission to turn parts of Ashley House in Stephenson Way into offices, a snack bar, a private members club and a cash and carry shop and distribution centre.

It is partly retrospective as the snack bar and a community centre, part of a European Challenge project, is already running.

The scheme was first launched in February last year, but was struck a blow when retrospective plans for a dance hall restaurant and snooker room in a sublet section was thrown out and a licence to sell alcohol refused.

But this scheme had been submitted by businessman Jose de Silva who was accused of a “blatant disregard for licensing and planning laws" and has since left the premises.

The new scheme would see Portuguese, Brazilian, Eastern European products sold in a cash and carry shop.

The centre would be open seven days per week, including bank holidays, 9am to 9pm.

Joao Noronha, editor of the Portuguese National Newspaper, which occupies a separate part of the building has said the aim is to open a one stop shop service hub project.

Plans include activities and courses one stop shop with some 30 services available from various providers.

Portuguese culture for ex-pats, some Portuguese culture events and birthday parties would now be pursued.

Mr Noronha has said a snack bar at the site helped pay for the club's activities and other services on the site, like the cash and carry, would help subsidise the other services.

He said so far the centre had been doing very well, helping businesses, teaching English and assisting people with their IT skills.

There has been concerns from businesses on the estate. In September James Lawson, a planning agent from Trojan Property Group, representing businesses on the site, said firms wanted to protect the employment area and didn't want the uses including retail and leisure proposed by Mr de Silva allowed.

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