Decision due on multi-million pound new city centre hotel

Tesco Metro on Guildhall Hill, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The hotel would be above Tesco Metro in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A decision on whether to allow a multi-million pound hotel in the centre of Norwich will be made next week - and officers are recommending it gets the go-ahead.

Plans for the 91-bedroom hotel and guest restaurant, in Chamberlain House, in Guildhall Hill - above and behind the Tesco Metro store - were lodged with Norwich City Council in April.

Plans for Chamberlain House in Norwich

Plans for the hotel at Chamberlain House, as viewed from Pottergate. - Credit: AWW

Applicant Associated British Foods Pension Trustees Ltd wants to turn empty offices in the Victorian building into hotel rooms, with an extension where the superstore's loading yard is.

The Tesco store would remain, as would shops in Dove Street, while two new retail units would be created at the back.

Norwich City Council's planning committee will decide on Thursday, July 8, whether to grant planning permission for the scheme.

City Hall officers are recommending that councillors approve it, pending a legal agreement and with a number of conditions attached.

Planning officer Lara Emerson stated, in the report which will go before councillors: "The proposed hotel, by attracting overnight visitors, and the retail units, by attracting additional footfall, will help to support the vitality and viability of The Lanes
and the wider city centre."

The scheme has been supported by the Norwich Society.

The civic watchdog's submission was one of three letters supporting the scheme sent to the council.

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The council has had four letters of objection, including from the Norwich Lanes Association.

The association expressed fears it could be a chain hotel and that national brands would move into the new retail units - ruining the character of the Norwich Lanes.

Lower Goat Lane in Norwich Lanes. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Norwich Lanes Association has expressed concerns about the hotel scheme. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

A spokesman said: “If you let one corporation in to the Lanes, the brands and chains may well follow.

"When this has happened in other independent areas across the UK, the rents have risen, the visitor numbers have dwindled, so culturally and economically, this would a disaster."

John Walker of property consultants Ward Hill Walker, previously said bringing the 120-year old building back into use would attract thousands of visitors into the city centre and create new jobs.

History of Chamberlain House

The property when it was the Chamberlin's department store. Pic: Archant

The property when it was the Chamberlin's department store. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

Despite the different spelling, the building was once home to the department store Chamberlins - the most celebrated store in the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

That store was founded by Henry Chamberlin after he arrived in Norwich from Edinburgh in 1815.

It opened the following year, joined by his son Robert and the store expanded along Dove Street, with 120 members of staff.

On the death of Robert in 1876, his son George, a three time Mayor of Norwich, became general manager.

By the end of the nineteenth century, business was booming and the store had departments devoted to millinery, furnishings, carpets and clothing.

Chamberlins manufactured many of the items they sold and in Botolph Street, Norwich, a factory, employing another 800 staff, manufactured their fashion products.

In 1898, a fire destroyed the original store and today’s building was built.

The store continued to trade in the 1930s and 1940s until the business was taken over in the 1950s by Marshall & Snelgrove, who in turn were later purchased by Debenhams, before it became home to Tesco.