Vandalism at a derelict site earmarked for almost 50 new homes has sparked fury among locals.

The former Van Dal shoe factory in Dibden Road has become a target for break-ins and anti-social behaviour since the business moved out in 2018. 

Norwich Evening News: The vandalised entrance to the former shoe factoryThe vandalised entrance to the former shoe factory (Image: Denise Bradley)

Yobs have forced entry by breaking down boards and smashing windows, while others have sprayed graffiti across the historic building, which is in the Silver Road area of NR3.

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It follows a public consultation launched by developer Hemingford Group on its plans to convert the space into 48 new flats - consisting of 28 social homes and 20 properties under shared ownership.

Norwich Evening News: The site has been empty since 2018The site has been empty since 2018 (Image: Denise Bradley)

The proposals, which would see the site renamed to Dibden Court, are yet to be submitted to Norwich City Council but it is understood the apartments would be a mix of one and two-bedroom dwellings. 

Alex Catt, who represents the area for the Green Party at City Hall, said: "After months of break-ins and anti-social behaviour around the old shoe factory in Dibden Road, we were really pleased to see a new owner propose plans to secure the site and develop it in the long term.

Norwich Evening News: The proposed plans for Dibden CourtThe proposed plans for Dibden Court (Image: Gary Johns Architects)

"It’s disappointing to see yet another break-in and we will be raising this with local police and the new owner of the site to try and ensure it can be secured as soon as possible.

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"We encourage local residents to report any anti-social behaviour directly to the police and to join us at the next community Safer Neighbourhood Action Panel meeting with the local policing team.

Norwich Evening News: Cllr Alex CattCllr Alex Catt (Image: Newsquest)

"This is taking place on Tuesday, December 12 from 6pm at the Silver Road Community Centre, where we will be proposing this issue as a priority for the local police team."

If approved, the plans for Dibden Court would be made up of two housing blocks, 12 parking spaces and two disabled bays. 

Norwich Evening News: The site has become a target for vandalsThe site has become a target for vandals (Image: Denise Bradley)

Cllr Julie Brociek-Coulton, who represents the area for Labour at the city council, welcomed the plans: "It would be fantastic to have something in place of the derelict building.

"I think the application is really good and will benefit couples and single people alike.

Norwich Evening News: Cllr Julie Brociek-CoultonCllr Julie Brociek-Coulton (Image: Julie Brociek-Coulton)

"But we would like the planning committee to look at putting double yellow lines on Crome Road.

"My residents have been asking for this for years and with the extra traffic that would be coming down Dibden Road and exiting Crome and Churchill Road it would be great to see."

The Van Dal shoe factory

Van Dal's parent company the Florida Group was founded in 1936 after Adelman Goodman purchased the Florida shoe factory at the junction of Salhouse Road on what is now the ring road, which became known as Florida Corner. 

Mr Goodman started the company with his two sons, Lionel and David, after moving their shoe-making operations from London to Norwich.

It was 10 years later in 1946 that the name Van Dal came to prominence and began to market the Florida range.

Norwich Evening News: The Van Dal shoe factory in 1964The Van Dal shoe factory in 1964 (Image: Newsquest)

In the 1950s the Florida was flourishing, moving to a large factory in Dibden Road and making around 8,000 pairs of shoes a week.

The business went on to become the last remaining shoemaker in the city until the Dibden Road site closed in 2018 - with the factory shop also shutting its doors.

Rising costs and a drop in wholesale trade made it unviable to keep the facility open.

Following the closure, the Florida Group moved to a new office and 22,000sqft warehouse in Salhouse Road.