Norwich is a tale of two cities, hears conference forging vision for 2040
PUBLISHED: 11:52 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:16 23 November 2017
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Norwich is a tale of two cities - with successes such as thriving creative industries and a healthy economy going hand in hand with problems such as a surge in homelessness and wide disparities in performance at schools.
That was what Norwich City Council chief executive Laura McGillivray today told a conference which aims to forge a vision for what the city will be like in 2040.
She said there was much to celebrate, but also major challenges.
More than a hundred people, from councils, businesses, charities and voluntary organisations, attended the conference at Norwich City Football Club’s Carrow Road ground.
With councils no longer getting so much funding from the government, the idea is that collective responsibility is key to keeping Norwich a fine city.
Ms McGillivray told the 2040 Norwich City Vision Conference: “We all know Norwich is a tale of two cities. In the words of Dickens, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ and that feels more true now than at any time in the past 10 years.”
She said Norwich had a young population, with an average age of 33.7 years and wonderful universities.
But she said a third of children and a quarter of pensions were living in households affected by poverty.
She said, while the city’s economy was healthy, there were 20,000 households earning below £15,000 a year.
She said Norwich was regarded as a great place to bring up families, but the number of new homes which had been built was “woeful”.
And she said homelessness was a major problem, with the figure of rough sleepers having shot up from six a few years ago to 30 today.
However, the conference also heard of optimism for the future.
Chris Murray, from Core Cities - a group which promotes cities - said: “It’s really clear that Norwich is doing well. It’s well ahead of the pack, but still has untapped economic potential.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t perform above the national average.
“It is productive, but it could be more so, given the right investment in the right places.”
Peter Mitchell, from the Norwich Business Improvement District, said Norwich had all the right ingredients for success.
He said there would be major changes to retail in the years ahead - particularly in the way people travel - and there would need to be careful management of that.
Prof John Last, from the Norwich University of Arts said the city was already a “magnet” for people seeking culture, saying it was almost unrivalled in those terms.
He said: “When I talk to my students about Norwich, what they talk about is the music, the galleries and the cafe culture. That’s their perception of Norwich.
“The Alan Partridge parody is last year and the future is how my students view it.
“But there is a little warning light. No city is innately good at culture.
“We have to sustain it and you have to grow it.
“It’s not a nice to have, but an essential and we need to ensure we have a clear strategy.”
He said there was no reason why Norwich could not host a future city of culture event or even the Turner prize.
Dan Mobbs, from the Mancroft Advice Project - which offers support to young people - said it was important not to sideline or isolate young people when forging a vision for the city’s future.
He said: “One of the biggest problems in our city is inequality and it is shocking.”
He said he wanted to see a city which was “youth friendly”, with an education system which is creative and allows young people to learn from their mistakes.