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New £7m two-storey church and café to be built after major blaze

The fire at the former church, top left, and what the new Soul Church could look like. Photo: Simon Finlay and Fielden+Mawson

The fire at the former church, top left, and what the new Soul Church could look like. Photo: Simon Finlay and Fielden+Mawson

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A two-storey church complete with a café and nursery will be built in Norwich, allowing its congregation to finally return home 15 years after a devastating blaze.

The Soul Church pastor Jon Norman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Soul Church pastor Jon Norman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In February 2006, a lightning strike saw fire rip through the Mount Zion Family Life Centre in Heartsease Lane.

Since then, the Norwich Family Life Church, now known as the Soul Church, has stayed in a temporary home on Mason Road, off Mile Cross Lane.

Soul Church pastor Jon Norman and his wife Chantel, who lead the Soul Church on Mason Road, Norwich.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Soul Church pastor Jon Norman and his wife Chantel, who lead the Soul Church on Mason Road, Norwich. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

But the church community has long said they hoped to one day return to their former home - and that dream has now become reality.

Norwich City Council has given the go-ahead for a £7m church with a 1,038-seat auditorium, office space, drop-in work hub, café, play barn, nursery and respite facility to be built on land off Heartsease Lane.

How the new Soul Church could look. Photo: Feilden+Mawson.How the new Soul Church could look. Photo: Feilden+Mawson.

Pastor Jon Norman said: "We are over the moon.

Fire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon FinlayFire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon Finlay

MORE: Lightning strike Norwich church eyes return to fire-hit home

Fire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon FinlayFire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon Finlay

"The tag line 'we are coming home' is what we have said for just over two years, since we started this project.

"It's the start of the home coming after the tragic fire in 2006. The thought of Soul Church being back on the Heartsease and Plumstead estate is a symbol of hope to me.

Mount Zion Church Family Life Centre after it was destroyed in a fire in 2006. Picture: James BassMount Zion Church Family Life Centre after it was destroyed in a fire in 2006. Picture: James Bass

"We are going to rebuild from the ashes."

He said they hoped to break ground on the development in 2020, and had a goal of being up and running in 2021, 15 years after the fire.

How the new Soul Church could look. Photo: Feilden+Mawson.How the new Soul Church could look. Photo: Feilden+Mawson.

As he approved the plans, city council planning officer Robert Webb said the size of the place of worship meant it would have ideally been located in the city centre.

"However, regard has been had to the previous use of the land, and its occupation by the church, together with the close ties the church has with the Heartsease community," he said, adding that it would deliver a "significant new community facility".

Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which a serious fire has destroyed.
Picture: James Bass

Copy: 
For:  EN NEWS
EN Pics © 2006    Tel: (01603) 772434Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which a serious fire has destroyed. Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EN NEWS EN Pics © 2006 Tel: (01603) 772434

MORE: Church blaze - man arrested

Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which has suffered a serious fire overnight
Picture: James Bass

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For:  EN NEWS
EN Pics © 2006    Tel: (01603) 772434Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which has suffered a serious fire overnight Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EN NEWS EN Pics © 2006 Tel: (01603) 772434

As the plans moved through the planning process there were few objections, with Sport England saying evidence that the land was formerly used as a sports pitch was mitigated by the fact that the new building would provide facilities for sport and physical activity.

Fire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon FinlayFire destroys the Zion Family Church in Norwich in 2006. Photo: Simon Finlay

Historic England said the development sits within a former prisoner of war camp, which had previously been used as a military training area.

Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which a serious fire has destroyed.
Picture: James Bass

Copy: 
For:  EN NEWS
EN Pics © 2006    Tel: (01603) 772434Mount Zion Church, Family Life Centre which a serious fire has destroyed. Picture: James Bass Copy: For: EN NEWS EN Pics © 2006 Tel: (01603) 772434

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