Neighbours aim to build Norwich’s first dedicated indoor climbing centre
A pair of next-door neighbours are progressing with plans to build Norwich's first dedicated indoor climbing centre.
Climber Mike Surtees, of Marlborough Road, Norwich, said he first discussed the idea with osteopath Philip Mortimer over Christmas drinks in 2010.
Their idea, estimated to cost �100,000, involves changing the use of a derelict unit in Twickenham Road, Catton Grove, from a children's activity centre to a climbing centre, osteopathy clinic and yoga room.
The application is now before the public, with Norwich City Council expected to make a decision within weeks.
A petition supporting the idea has attracted almost 100 signatures in 72 hours.
The University of East Anglia's Sportspark in Norwich has a climbing wall but Mr Surtees said the new centre would focus on bouldering. This form of rock climbing involves lower heights, no ropes and challenges people to complete shorter climbs.
Mr Surtees, 34, who said his father helped develop Norwich's former YMCA climbing wall, said climbing was one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
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He said: 'I moved to London for a couple of years and it's when I came back that I thought Norwich needs a climbing centre and I'm going to do it. It feels right. When you watch the number of people wanting to climb and who are climbing, there's a massive market of climbers.'
Climbing is also being considered as a sport to be introduced at the 2020 Olympics.
Mr Surtees added: 'If we can get children in now aged between six and 10 and they stick at it, there's a chance to push for an Olympic place.
'The more public support we can get, the better the outcome. There's quite a lot of people that leave Norwich to go climbing and we are trying to reverse that trend by giving them an accessible, affordable facility.'
Mr Surtees said if the proposal was approved the first aim was to provide a climbing wall by July.
He said the plan then included building a clinic by around August, to allow Mr Mortimer to move from his existing Prince of Wales Road premises, before adding an exercise studio by the end of the year.
Liam Carter, supporting the petition, said the idea would be a 'godsend' for city climbers who currently have to travel to Stowmarket or London to 'reach good facilities'.
Lewis Weatherburn added: 'I'm a student at the UEA and would love to have a new place to climb. It's a fantastic location and, if run well, will bring a lot of climbers from far further than just Norfolk. It has fantastic potential.'
Caroline Ashman, a Nottingham-based climber, said the sport was developing across the country although she was not aware of any facilities in the east.
She said: 'Bouldering is really sociable and that's one of the reasons that attracts me to it.'
To support the project, visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/highball- norwich-planning-application-1102203u
For further information, visit either www.facebook.com/HighballNorwich or http://highballbouldering.co.uk