Plans to demolish and rebuild one of Norwich's most prominent buildings have hit a snag after a national heritage group called for the "irreplaceable resource" to be protected. 

The Twentieth Century Society, a charity which campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage, has urged the city council to throw out plans to replace the 1950s-built former Debenhams department store with 400 student flats and new shops. 

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of the plans for the siteAn artist's impression of the plans for the site (Image: Lanpro)

A spokesman for the group argued the Red Lion Street site should be reused rather than demolished.

They wrote to the city council: "[The plans] would involve the complete loss of a building of local heritage significance - an irreplaceable resource.

"The Norwich Debenhams store is a fine 1950s building and the benefits of retaining the building are many.

"The potential for the reuse of the building is clear and the claim that it is not possible to convert the Norwich store is one that the Society disputes."

The group, which launched a campaign to retain department stores in 2021, claimed it has seen "numerous" good examples of schemes to adapt and retain the buildings. 

This includes a new university campus in Gloucester and student accommodation in Leeds.

"While it is challenging to convert department stores, it is certainly possible and should be more seriously considered as an option here," the spokesman added.

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"Not only are [the stores] landmarks, they are an important part of the social fabric of local places.

Norwich Evening News: The site has stood empty since 2021The site has stood empty since 2021 (Image: Denise Bradley)

"[And this] building is located within the City Centre Conservation Area and its loss will have a detrimental impact on the conservation area.

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"The Twentieth Century Society therefore objects to the proposed demolition of the former Debenhams store in Norwich and urges the local planning authority to refuse planning permission."

The lengthy statement also pointed to the site, which was rebuilt in 1957 as Curl's before becoming Debenhams, being heavily bombed during the Second World War.

Norwich Evening News: Debenhams closed in Norwich in May 2021Debenhams closed in Norwich in May 2021 (Image: Denise Bradley/Newsquest)

A heritage statement prepared by Lanpro on behalf of applicant Stanford Real Estate contradicted these claims, arguing the development would have a "beneficial effect" on the conservation area due to the "high quality of design" which "reflects the historical composition of the area".

It also added a total demolition of the site would be acceptable as the significance of the building is "low and local".