New shipping container arena in Norwich gets go-ahead - for one year

Block Norwich

Block Norwich, as seen from Rose Lane. - Credit: Ellis Williams Architects

Norwich is set to welcome a new multimillion pound venue in a transformed shipping container - but only for one year.

A vision to create The Block, a 300-seat arena on the Surface car park, near Mountergate in Norwich, which has been vacant for 20 years, was heard by Norwich City Council’s planning committee on Thursday.  

The plans were presented to the committee for the second time after councillors deferred the application in early November over frustrations that they did not have enough information about the noise impact on neighbours. 

Car Park

The former Norwich City Council car park where Block Norwich could be built is currently vacant and boarded up. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

Since the November meeting, developer Teampartner Three made a single change to the application – moving the smoking area further away from homes. 

Council officer Robert Webb recommended the site for approval but acknowledged the development would impact the Tudor Hall, a grade II listed heritage asset. 

He said: “In terms of the impact of this, the building poses a fairly functional one and probably not one we would grant permanent permission for in a conservation area adjacent to a listed building."

Mr Webb said the harms were outweighed by the short-term nature and the benefits to the local economy.

Block Norwich

An overhead view of the proposed Block Norwich venue. - Credit: Ellis Williams Architects

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Several objectors spoke against the plan, including Gary Percival from Adrian James Acoustics who spoke on behalf of South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller, who owns property near the site. 

Mr Percival said they had raised several concerns about the new venue, in particular the level of speech noise from people leaving the site. 

He said assessments showed the site would exceed World Health Organisation thresholds for serious annoyance for neighbours and conditions may be unenforceable.

And Maria Wilson, who said she lives in one of the worst affected flats, pleaded for the committee to refuse the application.

She said council rules on energy efficiency mean they can’t have air conditioning, which would lead to bigger impacts from noise and smells when they open their windows in the summer.

Fellow neighbour Lyn Lockheart added: “In my block alone we’ve got doctors, nurses, heart consultants and a urologist. 

“These are all people who work in the hospital, if you have an accident they are going to be looking after you. 

“Would you really want that if they’ve been up all night?” 

The two residents and Green councillor Gary Champion raised concerns about the timing of audio assessments, saying they were carried out while other nearby venues were not open. 

Alec Miles, an environmental protection officer, said the council needed to establish the background noise level.

More than 20 conditions have been imposed on the developers to try and mitigate neighbours' concerns, including no takeaway delivery food being allowed and a monitoring system that will automatically cut off music if it goes over a set volume. 

Managing director James Bradbury said Teampartner Three takes the noise concerns extremely seriously but was "surprised" because their sound assessment had also been carried out by Adrian James.

Mr Percival responded: “That’s not how it works."

Mr Bradbury promised the company would "run the attraction accordingly" and would hold a monthly event where residents and councillors could raise their concerns.

The venue should create roughly 50 jobs, with Mr Bradbury hoping to create an environment for people fresh out of catering school to run their own businesses. 

The Block, Norwich

An image showing how the entrance to Block Norwich could look. - Credit: Ellis Williams Architects

The committee voted to approve the application. 

Speaking after the meeting, Thorpe Hamlet ward Green councillor Ben Price criticised the decision.

Mr Price said it could have a significant impact on people living nearby and their mental health.

James Bradbury

James Bradbury, managing director of The Clear Idea. - Credit: James Bradbury

Mr Bradbury said it was a privilege for the application to have been approved and they were looking forward to delivering an exciting new venue for Norwich.

The venue is expected to start holding events in Easter 2022 and has permission to be in place for one year. 

If the developers wish to continue beyond 2023 they will have to seek further planning approval.