Trust set up for Norwich's war memorial

Kim BriscoeToday plans are unveiled to establish a trust to ensure Norwich's war memorial is never again allowed to deteriorate into a shocking state of disrepair.Kim Briscoe

Today, plans are unveiled to establish a trust to ensure Norwich's war memorial is never again allowed to deteriorate into a shocking state of disrepair.

By the time work to revamp the city's Memorial Gardens is completed later this year it will have been shut to the public for almost six years.

Now proposals are being put forward to create a trust to safeguard the future of the memorial and amass funds for future work and repairs.

Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew said: "I think the entire city was extremely unhappy with the position we got into with the war memorial - the fact it got so dilapidated, the fact it was dependent on the financial health of the city council which can vary over time. I think there were a number of people in the city who felt that in some way they were excluded, not just from being at the war memorial but in that they didn't really feel as if it was their war memorial.

"What we want to try to do is come up with a way for the future so the war memorial is much more independent and isn't just reliant on the whims of whomever happens to be in charge at City Hall, and that there's money available when money needs to be spent on major schemes or changes in the future."

The council closed the gardens to the public in November 2004 after engineers identified defects within the supporting structure.

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However, the finances for the scheme, which involves repairing the structure of the Memorial Gardens building and turning the war memorial to face City Hall, fell through several times.

The long-awaited �2.6m refurbishment finally started work in September 2009, and is hoped to be completed in time for Armistice Day this year,

giving the gardens an expected lifespan of 100 years.

Mr Morphew said: "The current scheme is fully funded and there's no question of any contributions needed towards that.

"Neither are we expecting any significant sums of money to need to be spent on the war memorial for hopefully decades once it's completed.

"What we are proposing, and the Lord Lieutenant is with us on this, is to set up a trust made up of members of this council, individuals and other organisations who could over time contribute money and raise funds to accumulate a fund which could be used to make sure that the war memorial is kept in the kind of condition of which the city would continue to feel proud.

"So it would no longer ever be in a position where it was allowed to deteriorate and degenerate."

Norwich City Council will be putting �5,000 in initially to start the trust, but then opening it up for donations from interested parties and the general public.

Richard Jewson, Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, described the new trust as a "wonderful idea".

He said: "We are in the middle of this splendid reordering of the war memorial and the gardens and I welcome the establishment of this trust to ensure that we remember and continue to remember and honour all those who sacrificed their lives for the country."

Jack Woods, secretary of the Norwich branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association, said: "The war memorial has got to be put in order, there's no two ways about that, not only for the boys that died in the last two world wars but also for all of the guys out there now in Afghanistan.

"I'm pleased, it is about time, but the past is the past and let's get on with it and get it done."

Mr Morphew and Mr Jewson have been appointed as interim trustees of new body, and will now be recruiting trustees.

As the city council owns most of the war memorials, it will be made up of four trustees nominated by the city council and three other trustees. The trust will be designed to qualify for charitable status and will also be responsible for the care of other memorials around Norwich, including the Boer War Memorial at the Shirehall and the memorial in Earlham Cemetery.

The fenced-off memorial outside City Hall was famously condemned by former journalist Martin Bell, who said you would have to go to war-torn Iraq to find one in such a bad condition.

Mr Bell OBE, former BBC foreign affairs correspondent and ex-MP, made the scathing comments during a visit to Norwich and criticised the council for failing to renovate the memorial.

He said at the time: "Of all the public places in Norwich it should be the one people take most care of. I was really shocked to find the state it was in and it is in the heart of the city."

Applications for the positions of trustees are welcome and should be sent to Mr Morphew at City Hall, St. Peter's Street, Norwich NR2 1NH.

Trustees are able to make appeals for and accept funds, make grants and manage the maintenance of the memorials.

The council will be running the day-to-day administration of the trust initially, until it is in a position to operate independently.

The city council will remain responsible for the routine maintenance, cleaning and overall condition of the war memorial, memorial gardens and surrounding area.

Members of the public can make a donation to the trust by visiting City Hall cashiers at the above address or calling the council on 0344 980 3333.

� What do you think of the idea to set up a war memorial trust? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email