Inspector to decide on controversial plan to build 5G-ready hub on top of city music venue

Epic Studios on Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: Epic Studios

Epic Studios on Magdalen Street in Norwich. Picture: Epic Studios - Credit: Epic Studios

A bid to turn the rooftop of a city entertainment venue into a telecommunications hub will be decided by a planning inspector.

Earlier this year, mobile phone giants EE and H3G lodged a combined bid to place a radio base station on the roof of Epic Studios on Magdalen Street.

If approved, the bid would have seen six antennae and two dishes on the roof of the venue to mitigate for loss of signal at an existing base on St Crispins Road.

However, the scheme was rejected by the city council after planners at City Hall argued it would be disproportionately large and damaging to the city centre conservation area.

At its highest point, the equipment would reach 18.8m above ground level, standing 6.4m tall on the building’s roof.

In his report recommending the scheme for refusal, case officer Jacob Revell wrote: “The height and scale of the proposed equipment is considered excessive.

“It would be extremely visible from views across the conservation area, from Magdalen Street, Edward Street and Cowgate.

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“There are a number of listed and undesignated heritage assets on which this would have a clear negative impact, especially in relation to setting.”

However, the decision has been taken out of the hands of the city council, with the two companies lodging an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

In papers submitted with the application, agents for the pair said the site would provide 2G, 3G and 4G signal immediately, while an upgrade to 5G would be achievable without need for altering the site.

They explained a number of other city sites had been considered for the equipment, including the rooftops of Roys on Magdalen Street, Barclays Bank on Whitefriars and within Anglia Square. However, the proposed £251m revamp of the shopping centre had ruled it out.

The papers said: “The specific requirement of the operators in this instance is to provide continued connectivity and network enhancement to the area, with a minimal impact. This site achieves this aim.”

The appeal will be considered by a planning inspector in due course, with the council and the companies given until October 14 to state their cases.