Norwich Society is a champion for the city for the 21st century
PUBLISHED: 11:36 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:59 11 May 2017
Norwich is a fine city, and is blessed with a multitude of voluntary organisations determined to keep it that way.
Only recently, we have seen the value of the Friends of the Plantation Garden as they ensured that the owner of the adjacent hotels did not cut off access to the garden indefinitely due to fears of subsidence.
They responded to public outcry and lobbied for immediate remedial action.
At the end of April we celebrated the heritage represented by our medieval churches with Flintspiration organised by the Churches Preservation Trust.
A vibrant weekend programme of tours, theatrical performances, children’s activities and a church run encouraged people to visit churches they may have previously passed by. Hundreds of people took part and let’s hope this festival becomes a regular occurrence.
On a smaller scale, the Friends of Kett’s Heights are busy with practical work and a public programme to make this natural space more welcoming and accessible to the local community.
As the incoming Chair of the Norwich Society I am aware of the role that the Society has played in helping protect and enhance our fine city since 1923.
And this work goes on, helping protect what is good about the past but also offering strategies for ensuring that Norwich remains a fine city while meeting the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Here are four examples of how we work.
We have just launched a trails leaflet, Glimpses of Medieval Norwich, which encourages people to discover the remains of our medieval city walls while uncovering other medieval treasures along the way.
There are five walks, each starting from The Forum and taking about two hours. You have the choice of delving into Norwich’s industrial past in Norwich Over the Water, walking in the footsteps of the wealthiest citizens in Elm Hill and King Street, seeing where Norwich citizens spent their leisure hours promenading in the various pleasure gardens, or just taking a stroll along the river and through the Cathedral Close.
Copies are available from the Tourist Information Centre at The Forum and you can download detailed trail instructions from the Norwich Society website http://www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk/city-walls-walks.
Bringing us more up-to-date, the Norwich Society in partnership with Norwich University of the Arts will be hosting a symposium on 17 July commemorating the 50th anniversary of the pedestrianisation of London Street, the first shopping street to be pedestrianised in the United Kingdom.
We struggle now to envisage what it must have been like as we stroll past shops and cafes unimpeded by traffic or traffic fumes.
The Norwich Society has championed the extension of pedestrianisation in the City and is considering whether Elm Hill could be the next to benefit.
But the Norwich Society is not just about celebrating and commemorating the past. We look to the future because a city without a vibrant development programme and good new architecture will die.
This year we will be holding our biennial Design Awards, which celebrate the best of new architecture or adaptations.
This scheme started in 2003 with a single award for the conversion of the Looses premises in Orford Yard, Red Lion Street.
We now have awards covering commercial, residential and community buildings, a conservation award and a “Best in Show”.
In 2015 we celebrated, amongst others, the restoration of the Britons Arms, the Creative Arts Building at City College, the White Company shop in Gentleman’s Walk, and the Westlegate Tower conversion into shops and apartments.
Projects are judged on originality of design, visual impact and scale, how well the scheme fits into its context and enhances its local environment, innovative use of materials and quality of workmanship, and importance to the community.
But the Norwich Society does not just wait until a project is completed before taking a view. We are currently participating in the consultation on the redevelopment of Anglia Square, a project which will determine the attractiveness and viability of Magdalen Street for generations to come.
Magdalen Street is one of the oldest routes into Norwich and yet has suffered from inappropriate development and just plain ugly new buildings in recent decades.
Traders in the street have created a vibrant offer focussing on world cuisine and antiques and collectibles and it is a pleasure to visit the various shops and restaurants.
The Norwich Society wants to ensure that the Anglia Square development complements that offer rather than sucking the life out of this fragile economy.
So, what do I want the Norwich Society to achieve over the next few years?
I want it to be a high profile and trusted champion for Norwich, helping to raise awareness of our unique historic heritage while encouraging sympathetic new development that the Norwich Society of the 22nd century will be fighting to preserve.