Watchdog calls for more than a hundred Norwich buildings to be protected from demolition
ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC © 2005
Civic watchdogs have launched a new drive to help prevent Norwich's rich heritage from being lost forever and have identified more than 100 locations around the city they think should be protected from the bulldozer.
Schools, shops, pubs, houses, churches, libraries, factories, bridges and even County Hall, the headquarters of Norfolk County Council, are among the sites in Norwich which have been put forward for safeguarding.
The Norwich Society has spent the past three years drawing up a list of the buildings and landmarks around Norwich in an attempt to prevent the fate which befell the Earl of Leicester pub from happening to other buildings.
To the dismay of many, the pub, in Dereham Road, was knocked down in 2005 to make way for flats, despite a last ditch effort to get it listed by English Heritage.
Six years down the line, and the flats which were meant to have been built in its place have still not been constructed, and the Norwich Society says lessons need to be learned.
To prevent a repeat, the society, which in the 1930s helped prevent Norwich City Council from pulling down historic buildings in Elm Hill, have joined forces with conservation officers from City Hall to get other sites considered worthy of safeguarding locally listed.
While such a list will not be binding when it comes to applications for planning permission and would not carry the same weight as an English Heritage listing, it would mean members of a planning committee would need to take the status into account when making decisions.
Vicky Manthorpe, administrator for the Norwich Society, said the watchdog had been spurred to survey the city for buildings of merit because of the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Duke of Leicester pub.
She said: “I don’t know if being on this local list would have saved the Earl of Leicester pub, but it might have done, and it’s worth us doing this to try to prevent something like that happening again.
“For us, this is about the appreciation of the buildings which Norwich has, saying there are some really interesting buildings in the city, which you might pass by everyday and not really notice.
“But we also hope that by doing this it means we do not lose the buildings on this list without some real thought. These are buildings which really do make a difference to the streetscape.
“If they are to be replaced by something really exceptional then that might be fine, but let’s not ever have a repeat of the Earl of Leicester, where a building with merit was demolished and the site has just stood empty ever since.”
The project started three years ago with the city divided into six segments, with a team of more than 20 volunteers pounding the streets in search of locations which were not already listed, but which are considered to have merit.
Mrs Manthorpe said: “We realised such a project would be a considerable undertaking and so it has proved. Our brief was to survey all areas of the city within the outer ring road that were not conservation areas - a huge area - and we would do it on foot.”
A steering group oversaw the process, with input from English Heritage and the city council’s conservation officer who agreed the methods and criteria used.
Buildings were scored over five criteria - townscape, architecture, history, community and condition, and had to score at least eight points across those criteria to make the final list.
Mrs Manthorpe said: “Norwich has many fine buildings that are important to each local area and many are not widely known or celebrated. All the buildings selected contribute to their area’s sense of place by a combination of their architectural or historical significance, or by being of use to the community. Some are local landmarks.
“These aren’t buildings which would make national news, but they are special to us. When you look at some of them, they are amazing. They really do make a difference to Norwich.
“There’s a huge variety on the list. There’s quite a few schools, rows of houses, bridges and County Hall, which we know is likely to prove rather controversial!”
She said the society has written to the owners of the buildings and said most had responded positively to the idea of being included on the list.
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, welcomed the Norwich Society’s contribution in drawing up the list. She said: “It’s interesting that it is such a broad range of buildings.
“It demonstrates what a rich heritage Norwich has, not only in the wonderful churches, but in more practical buildings that people have lived, worked, learned and drank in.
“Clearly we want to keep that sort of mix. We have a planning process which we have to go through, but it’s good to see the Norwich Society is working with us to identify these buildings that so many people have such fond memories of.”
Before the Norwich Society’s local listing list can be published and handed to Norwich City Council, the public will be invited to have their say on the buildings chosen.
And next month a public consultation exhibition, with photographs of some of the buildings will be on show, will be held at The Forum in Norwich.
The exhibition will run from Monday, September 5 until Sunday, September 11, tying in with this year’s Heritage Open Days, when buildings across the city throw open their doors to visitors.
The full list of the 122 locations earmarked for inclusion on the Norwich Society’s local list will be loaded onto the society’s website at www.thenorwichsociety.co.uk over the summer.
• Are there any buildings in Norwich you think are especially worthy of being protected from the bulldozer? Tell us which ones and why by writing to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org