Decision due on plans for £8.5m National Centre for Writing in Norwich

An artist's impression of the proposed National Centre for Writing in Norwich. Photo: Supplied. An artist's impression of the proposed National Centre for Writing in Norwich. Photo: Supplied.

Saturday, May 3, 2014
7:00 AM

A decision on whether a new £8.5m literary centre can be built in the centre of Norwich looks set to be made next week, after twice being put on ice at previous meetings.

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The proposed revamp of Grade II-listed Gladstone House, in St Giles Street, to create a National Centre for Writing, has proved controversial.

But officers at Norwich City Council are recommending that city councillors give it the go-ahead when they meet on Thursday.

Writers’ Centre Norwich, which is behind the plans, says it would establish a world-class centre for literary study, translation and performance.

The plan includes a new 120-seat auditorium for book readings in the garden of the house, which was built in the late 18th century. It would also see the later rear annexe kncoked down, with apartments built for a writer and translator in residence.

Teaching spaces, a private basement bar and a cafe also form part of the proposals.

The building would be leased free of charge to the centre by Norwich City Council, which would retain ownership, and the work would be funded by a £3m Arts Council grant, smaller contributions from Norfolk County Council, the University of East Anglia, which is a partner, and trusts and foundations.

The remainder of the cost will need to be raised before work could start.

But objectors say the work proposed would damage the building, and obscure its south facade, while heritage groups have also raised concerns at the adaptations.

English Heritage says it has concerns over “harmful elements” to Gladstone House, which it wanted to see addressed, while the Georgian Group wants it turned down.

The Friends of Gladstone House are also worried about the changes which will be made, the size of the auditorium and the access to the building, while the Norwich Society, while supportive of the project, says a redesign of the scheme is needed.

But Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers’ Centre Norwich, has previously said it would build on Norwich’s status as the UK’s first Unesco City of Literature.

He said: “This will be an important piece of cultural infrastructure for the city. It will bring money into the city and raise our profile on the national and international stage, and give people access to the best writers and storytellers in the world.”

A decision was due to be made in March, but was postponed after a website glitch meant people could not comment on the plans.

And, when the scheme was due to come before councillors last month, a map mix-up meant the wrong houses were served with notice of the application, so that homes backing on to the site were not told. That meant a decision was, once again, postponed.

However, the proposals are now due to come before members of the city council’s planning committee on Thursday, with officers recommending approval.

They state, in the report which will come before councillors, that: “The principle of the conversion is considered to be acceptable with notable benefits in terms of strengthening the cultural status of Norwich and promoting development that supports the arts and educational provision.”

Officers acknowledge a “certain degree of harm” will be done to the listed building.

• What do you think of the plans? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

11 comments

  • Peter, why don't you tell us at who's expense this writing centre will be developed? Will Norwich not be the City of Literature without such centre? and how come Norweich and UEA have won this accolade? without a writing centre. It would be more important to give oput sheds to leaving PHD students, a place were the mind can soar and thrive, the to incarcerate their feeble minds in a spruced up Georgian building.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

  • A worthy venture in theory but in practice will satisfy maybe just a few dozen people in the area. How long before the rooms are just being rented out for business meetings and conferences? Why 8.5 million? Sounds a lot for so little.

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    Resident Smith

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

  • Which is for the greater good of the city of Norwich,some "harmful effects" to a building,whether it is listed,historic or any other sort of building it is still only a building or to celebrate the fact that Norwich is an UNESCO city of literature.This new national centre seals the deal and makes it reality.We are,officially,a city of "scribblers".

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    Peter Watson

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Old owl, sustainable transport is not the prefered means of transport, not by City Hall nor those working in an office seemingly feel they have an inalienable right to drive into the City. We have just added school traffic for 70 youngsters in the underused new academy over the road. You add to the traffic if you want to, I won't. That an academic does not care about public health matters does not surprise me at all. Take the blinkers off and see whats there.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Just submitted my support for this plan on the City Council's Planning Portal so other commentators might want to do the same instead of rattling on about the bloody market and so-called secret deals. Why should a consortium of the Arts Council and the UEA want to spring clean the market? The UEA is world famous for its creative writing courses but it mustn't become complascent and this sort of scheme is exactly what is required.

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    oldowl

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • As the building is already offices, (of which there is an over-supply,) the change of use should not especially increase traffic and reports available on the internet show that it is "extremely accessible by all modes of sustainable transport". This beautiful, stately Georgian house will gain a new lease of life if the plans are accepted.

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    oldowl

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • This rapid proposal and plan was taken in secrecy and without consulting much. Further Gerry Mitson has a valid point, City Hall has failed to look after the publics H&S on the market. I also agree with Norwich's point that this is another generator of traffic in an already congested inner City.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Why build it in city centre , parking issues , already so much in city centre , nor should it go by the UEA , Why not build it north of the city ??? There's nothing in the north of the city , this is a fact (house prices are lower in less desire able areas of the city - you need to encourage prosper the whole of norwich , not every thing revolves around the city centre , but this is what the present council wants!!!!!!!

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    Norwich

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • This is just the sort of vanity project that should not go ahead. The money should be used to maintain what we have if so much is available

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    Johnny Norfolk

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Parts are to be demolished ! ! Why not build at the U E A

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    Albert Cooper

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • Surely £8.5 million can be better spent elsewhere, norwich market is desperate for a spring clean foe example.

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    gerry mitson

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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