National pub chain JD Wetherspoon is set to open premises in the centre of Thetford, creating between 40 and 50 jobs for the town.

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The company, known for its cheap-priced beer and food, will become the new tenant of the former Red Lion pub in the Market Square.

While there is a little red tape to clear up, with planning permission still to be granted and a premises licence to be obtained, the pub chain is expected to spend around £1m making changes to the inside of the building, which is owned by the town council.

Town mayor Derek Mortimer said a Wetherspoon pub could be a “very, very good thing” for the town.

“There are major plans by Wetherspoon which can only be for the good of the town itself,” he said. “I have been approached by people who have second-guessed who is coming and some of the traders and publicans are happy because it will create a footfall and bring people to the area, particularly in the evening and at weekends.

“Others are concerned but my personal feeling is it will be great for the town.”

A Wetherspoon spokesman said the company had exchanged on the property but had not yet completed the deal and so could not set a date for works to begin.

It was added the Red Lion name could be kept as Wetherspoon “always gives its pubs a historical reference” but he could not confirm this.

If the Red Lion name were not used, any other would be relevant to the characters or history of the town.

Mr Mortimer added: “Hopefully it will give the town a new impetus and, from our point of view, it gives us a stable tenancy with a national, reputable, company.

“Hopefully it will bring economic growth and give the young people options. I think we have one nightclub and now they will have another option and it will keep them off the streets.

“Because of the commercial sensitivity and the fact Wetherspoon didn’t want any type of publicity before it happened, we had to keep our cards close to our chest.”

The Red Lion pub closed in July last year when an agreement was made between the town council and tenant to terminate the lease early.

Keith Allchin, the landlord for eight years, had said not enough people were staying in the town at night to make the business viable.

Mr Mortimer said he believed Whetherspoon had “major” plans for the building.

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