New heritage boss outlines his vision

The new boss of the city's heritage watchdog has laid out his vision for the future - and outlined a wish list of buildings he would like to see razed to the ground, revamped, or scrapped.

Lucy Bolton

The new boss of the city's heritage watchdog has laid out his vision for the future - and outlined a wish list of buildings he would like to see razed to the ground, revamped, or scrapped.

There's no surprise that Tim Townshend, the new chairman of the Norwich Society, whose aim is to preserve the city's heritage, has no time for the ugly Westlegate Tower.

He also would like to see Norfolk's first multi-storey car park, at Stephen's, made more attractive and plans for a new tower block at Anglia Square scrapped.

As to buildings he likes, the Great Western House near Norwich train station gets his vote.

Mr Townshend, who has been a long standing and active member of the society, serving as vice-chairman of the planning appraisal committee, succeeded Dr Jeremy Taylor as the new chairman at the watchdog's AGM on April 18.

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He said today he was looking forward to his new role, and added: “My policy is that I'm very much of the view that sightlines throughout the city should not be impeded by high rise tower blocks and other buildings.

“As to the general situation in Norwich, I'm very pleased at the increase in people living in the city centre, and it's very good to see a lot of new build in central Norwich.

“I'm certainly not averse to good new architecture. I think the standard of new build now is very much better than it was 30 years ago, when a lot of the architecture was quite drab and awful.”

The planned redevelopment of Anglia Square is good news, he said, but he wants the proposal for a new 18/19 storey tower block there to be scrapped.

He said: “I think the plans are inappropriate. I would hope that developers would get rid of that very high tower.

“As for other buildings in the city, the only thing worth saving at Westlegate Tower is the shields, which I would like to see kept.

“I would like to see the multi-storey car park at the top of St Stephen's clad in an acceptable way. That was the first multi-storey in Norfolk, and it's a blot when you drive into Norwich.

“Great Western House is a splendid building and a complement to the train station next to it.

“We are currently interested in protecting Howard's House in King Street, which is a listed building and is part of the St Anne's Wharf site redevelopment. I have been impressed by some of the new build at St Anne's Wharf, which is good contemporary architecture.”

Mr Townshend's new role will also see him promoting the continuing development of the society's website so that both members and the public can see what the society is doing.

He was born in Hethersett where his father was rector and graduated from Cambridge University in 1971. Called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1972, he practised as a barrister from Octagon House Chambers in Norwich until he retired in 2005.

He is a president of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, a governor of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, was board member of the Broadland Housing Association and a committee member of the Norwich Housing Society and is a past president of the Norfolk Club.

The Norwich Society, which started in 1923, focuses attention on issues and changes that affect the character of the city and tries to ensure that any new buildings come up to a high standard and don't detract from existing buildings.

The society takes credit for saving Elm Hill in 1925 and also Bishop Bridge, the Strangers' Club and the Assembly House where the society is based.

Meanwhile, journalist Alec Hartley, formerly with Anglia Television, was elected vice-president of the society at the same AGM. His father Eric Hartley was mayor of Norwich in 1980.