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Optimism over plans to regenerate Norwich's historic halls

PUBLISHED: 11:00 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 July 2010

Mike Loveday at St Andrew's Hall.

Mike Loveday at St Andrew's Hall.

Sarah Hall

Heritage chiefs today said they remained optimistic that ambitious plans to regenerate Norwich's historic St Andrew's and Blackfriars Hall would secure funding.

Heritage chiefs today said they remained optimistic that ambitious plans to regenerate Norwich's historic St Andrew's and Blackfriars Hall would secure funding.

A year ago the Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) was dealt a blow when its scheme for the halls missed out on a £7.5m lottery bid.

The trust wants to transform the halls into a cultural hub, including a conference and music hall, at a cost of £24m, which they estimate could boost the local economy by up to £170m.

But the Heritage Lottery Fund decided not to accept the bid, raising concerns about the balance of the conference hall element of the scheme.

However, Mike Loveday, chief executive of HEART, said work had been going on behind the scenes in the 12 months since then to pave the way for future funding bids.

Mr Loveday said a range of cultural, business and community groups from around Norwich had been invited to meet with the team behind the bid, including Hopkins Architects.

He said: “We had two days' worth of workshops at which we said to them, 'this is the path of travel we are taking and we would like your input.'

“We want them to tell us now what they hope to see from the regeneration plans. Everyone was really positive and it means the team can now go away to work up some proposals.

“We thought it would be easier to break it down into bite-sized chunks to explain 'this is what we want to do and this is where we think we can get the money to do it'. It's like stepping stones over a river.

“Generally it is all moving the right way and the really good thing is that we have got very good feedback on what we want to do with the halls.

“We are developing in the right direction to get where we need to be to lever finance into the project.”

Mr Loveday said the team was in talks with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) about securing money for the project to be an exemplar scheme for eco friendly regeneration of an historic building.

The hope remains that if funding is secured, work on the halls can start next year and the project can be finished by 2013.

Are you trying to breathe new life into one of Norwich's historic buildings? Call Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dangrimmer@archant.co.uk

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