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Call to create concert hall at Anglia Square in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 January 2017 | UPDATED: 08:19 24 January 2017

Anglia Square Norwich  Photo : Steve Adams

Anglia Square Norwich Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016

Civic watchdog the Norwich Society has suggested that Anglia Square could be a good location for what it has described as a “much-needed concert hall” for the city.

The suggestion has been made by the society in its response to Norwich City Council’s consultation on its blueprint for the future of the area –known as a policy guidance note – which includes continuing to have a cinema in the locality.

It comes as – as previously reported – Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes are due to be submitting plans for ambitious proposals to revamp Anglia Square.

Part of the Norwich Society’s response to the city council’s consultation reads: “We broadly accept the vision, but do question whether the cinema is the best cultural option as there is already excellent cinema provision in Norwich; we suggest that the feasibility of a much-needed concert hall should be examined instead.”

Explaining the viewpoint further, John Litster, administrator of the Norwich Society, said: “We wonder if there’s the need for that cinema capacity in Norwich. I know it’s not proposing to increase what is already there but there is probably not a pressing need for that cinema and we wonder if that space would be put to better use.”

There has been a cinema in Anglia Square for many years but Mr Litster said that with the city now also having two cinema multiplexes as well as Cinema City, there was “probably already an overprovision of cinema and there’s a distinct absence of a concert hall in Norwich.”

He said people snapping up tickets to see pop superstars Take That this summer on their two Norwich dates at Carrow Road showed Norwich had the potential to accommodate big music acts and other performers.

He added that establishing “the principal concert hall for the east of England” – which he said should be smaller than Carrow Road but bigger than Norwich Theatre Royal – would be a big boost for the city, enabling it to attract more big names, both from the classical and popular music world, as well as top comedians and other big acts.

But Trevor Wicks, who runs the current Hollywood Cinema in Anglia Square, said: “What about the people who live around here who want to go to the cinema at a reasonable cost?”

He added: “I think the public and families living in this area should make this decision.”

He also said he thought it would be a good idea for the city to have a purpose-built concert hall but that Anglia Square was not the right location.

“A concert hall would not fit in Anglia Square,” he said. “You would really want something like that on the edge of the city where there is easy parking.”

Meanwhile, other key city figures have also shared their thoughts about the issue.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID (Business Improvement District), said: “I think it would need to be a much more thought-through process.

“There are a lot of financial and physical constraints to the [Anglia Square] site. An air of realisation needs to be brought into the process.”

He said if there were plans to develop a concert hall then areas across the whole city should be considered to find the best location with the best infrastructure in place.

Mike Nutt, from the Norwich Philharmonic Society, which regularly performs at Norwich’s St Andrew’s Hall, said that while St Andrew’s was a beautiful venue it would be great for the city to have a purpose-built concert hall with bigger capacity for both performers and audience numbers.

“The idea of Anglia Square being a potential site is an interesting thought,” he said.

“I am always a bit nervous about places that aren’t city centre but then it is not that far off. It could be a wonderful injection of much-needed investment in that part of the city.

“It’s an interesting thought. It’s certainly worth thinking about and putting on the list for further consideration.”

Norwich Arts Centre director Pasco-Q Kevlin said: “Norwich Arts Centre will always support the creation of opportunities for people to get up and off the sofa to go out and have a fantastic cultural life.

“There is nothing like the live experience.”

Kris McCarthy, operations manager at Epic Studios, said that he thought a purpose-built concert hall was a great idea but that because of the wealth of music venues already in the city it would be a big risk.

The Norwich Society’s correspondence with the city council is one of a number of responses the authority has received during its consultation about the Anglia Square area.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said: “We’ve had a good level of response to the consultation with about 25 organisations and individuals offering their views.

“All of these responses will be collated and taken to the Sustainable Development Panel when it meets on February 22.”

The redevelopment of the area

Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes revealed last year that they were looking to revamp the Anglia Square shopping centre, with “emerging proposals” including:

The demolition of the current Anglia Square, the former stationery office Sovereign House and Gildengate House;

More than 1,000 homes, to be built above new shop units and a new public square;

A new multi-storey car park;

The replacement of the existing cinema with a new one at ground level;

Better links across the site, to open up entry from other directions.

The developers held three days of public exhibitions in December and said more than 350 people had attended, with about 140 providing comments.

They are now thought to be drawing up solid plans for their proposals for the site.

What are your thoughts about the idea of having a concert hall in Anglia Square? Email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk or write to Letters, Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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