Joy as Norwich’s memorial gardens near completion
The long-awaited revamp of Norwich's Memorial Gardens will finally be completed next month when a special ceremony to mark the completion of the project will be held.
Wednesday, March 16, is a day veterans from across Norwich and beyond have long been waiting for and which will signal the end of a six-year campaign to transform the gardens into a place of which people can be proud.
A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said today: 'We can confirm a formal event, marking the completion of the Memorial Gardens and unveiling the new sculpture, Breath, is to be held on March 16 in St Peter's Street.
'At this stage we are not able to reveal any details of the event as the programme is still being finalised, but members of the public will be able to attend. We will release details nearer the time.'
The event is likely to attract thousands of people to the memorial gardens area just as it did back in November last year when the restored war memorial – which had been turned around to face City Hall – was re-dedicated.
It was a highly emotional moment as veterans from past conflicts braved the rain and the cold to stand proudly in front of the restored memorial.
And leaders at City Hall are expecting March 16 to be just as significant a day for the veterans who have served their country so proudly and for the city of Norwich as a whole.
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Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'I think its fair to say we're now on the final lap and we've got the date for it which I think I, like everyone else, am very excited about.
'That will be a day for celebration and it will be really good news that once again the city a place of remembrance and reflection that we can truly be proud of and that will last us for generations to come.'
Ray Holland, former chairman of the Norwich branch of the Royal British Legion and chair of the Eastern Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee, said: 'We're absolutely delighted that the memorial and the gardens will be completed.
'We've waited so long for this and March 16 will certainly be a date we shall all remember.'
Ray Self, social secretary of the Norwich branch of the Royal Naval Association, said: 'I'm highly delighted – we're really chuffed about this.
'We kept kicking the poor old council and Steve Morphew but he's come up trumps so we're good friends again.'
The council closed the gardens to the public in November 2004 after engineers identified defects within the structure.
Finance for the scheme fell through several times but the city council managed to secure the cash for the project after an innovative tie-up with the Homes and Communities Agency. The long awaited �2.6m refurbishment finally started work in September 2009.
The project has seen the war memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens who was also responsible for The Cenotaph in London, restored and turned around so it faces St Peter's Street.
In March it was announced a new Norwich War Memorials Trust would be set up to ensure the city's war memorials and gardens never got in such a bad state again.
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