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More than 40 new homes to be built at former telephone centre

PUBLISHED: 11:09 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:48 18 May 2020

An image of what the new apartments in Westwick Street would look like. Pic: LSI Architects.

An image of what the new apartments in Westwick Street would look like. Pic: LSI Architects.

LSI Architects

Work has begun on a scheme to build more than 40 new homes at a site which was once a crucial hub in Norwich’s telephone network.

The former telephone repeater exchange in Westwick Street. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe former telephone repeater exchange in Westwick Street. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Plans to demolish the 1950s-built Westwick House, in Westwick Street, previously BT’s telephone repeater station, were given the go-ahead at a meeting of Norwich City Council’s planning committee in October 2016.

And, last month, developers Wensum Development Ltd began the first stages of work on the site, which has permission for 42 new flats to be built there.

Cattle Market Street-based LSI Architects had come up with proposals for the apartments in two L-shaped blocks – one of five storeys and one of four storeys.

The apartments would be made up of one and two bedroom flats.

Westwick House, the former telephone repeater station in Westwick Street, Norwich. 
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYWestwick House, the former telephone repeater station in Westwick Street, Norwich. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The bid was previously welcomed by civic watchdog The Norwich Society, which said the plans were “imaginative”.

There had been concerns raised by neighbours, over what one resident described as “an unduly dense and visually dominant form of development”.

Another said, during the consultation prior to the award of planning permission: “I feel the development is overbearing and out of context for the area, and would leave a feeling of claustrophobia and enclosure for the current residents.”

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But the planning committee did decide to grant permission, despite the concerns.

And that will see the demolition of a building which once played a vital role in keeping people in Norwich connected.

All telephone traffic used to be carried over copper conductors in telephone cables.

But because copper wire is resistent to electrical signals, the power of the signals diminishes over distance.

To help make long-distance calls audible, amplification was needed – which is what happened at the Westwick Street telephone repeater station.

But the development of modern optic cables rendered such stations redundant and the building has long been out of use.

• Elsewhere in the city, proposals to demolish six garages to make way for a new two-storey home has been rejected.

City Hall’s planning officers turned down the proposal for the home in Leopold Road.

Officers said the form, scale and design of the home was “considered to be harmful to local character and amenity”.

MORE: Bid for hundreds of homes and school next to the NDR


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