Plans shelved to build 91-bedroom, seven-storey hotel in Norwich
PUBLISHED: 06:01 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:45 23 October 2020
Developers have pulled the plug on a multi-million pound hotel in a historic part of Norwich city centre.
Plans for a hotel, bar and restaurant earmarked for Chamberlain House, on the corner of Guildhall Hill and Dove Street, in the Norwich Lanes, have been withdrawn.
However property consultants acting on behalf of the pensions arm of Primark owners Associated British Foods, who were behind the scheme, said revised plans would be submitted “early next year”.
It follows the city council’s concerns over the possible impact on surrounding historic buildings and medieval undercrofts. These brick structures run beneath Norwich’s streets and buildings, the oldest dating back to the 12th century.
The application for the hotel in a building once occupied by a Victorian department store known as the ‘Selfridges of Norwich’ had hoped to create a flagship visitor haven, bringing people to Norwich’s centre to stay in five-star luxury in bedrooms overlooking the market place and City Hall.
But the plans, although at first welcomed as a way of “enhancing the city centre”, have been met with opposition. There were objections over the developer’s intention to remove a large maple tree in Pottergate. Then council planners voiced concerns that vibrations from construction vehicles could affect the foundations of adjacent buildings as well as the undercrofts.
Jonty Young, spokesman for the Norwich Lanes Association, said: “It is one of the iconic parts of the Lanes and we don’t want encroachment – a corporation coming into one of the parts of the city where there are the most independent businesses in the city.
“It’s creepage and once allowed in, others will come. The council is obsessed with bringing in a large hotel into Norwich but the Lanes are the envy of many towns and cities across the UK and needs to stay that way.”
Council officers voiced concerns over potential damage to foundations of historic buildings such as the Thorns DIY premises, Lobster Lane, St John Maddermarket church the Guildhall and many others.
It stated further archaeological investigation would be necessary before any development could go ahead.
Clare Vint, planning and conservation officer at Norwich City Council, said: “The proposal has a negative impact on the significance of the setting of a number of designated and non-designated heritage assets and a potential impact on the main area of archaeological interest.”
The view was backed by Norfolk County Council. John Percival, historic environment senior officer. He said: “The new-build element of the scheme will impact on below-ground archaeology. If there was to be any re-submissions of similar schemes we would ask that these be subject to a programme of archaeological work.”
John Walker of Ward Hill Walker, property consultants acting on behalf of ABF, said: “We decided to withdraw the original application and are now working with a new team of architects on a revised set of plans which we are on target to submit early next year.
“Our enhanced plans from the new team will incorporate the feedback so far and we will be going out to further consultation prior to submission of the application.
“This is an area steeped in history and we are expecting that archaeological investigations may need to form part of the application, which we will naturally conform with.”
The area of Dove Street is known to date back to Roman times with artefacts previously found at this location including Roman coins and late Saxon pottery. In 1898 a fire destroyed a late 16th century building at the junction of Pottergate and Dove Street.
This then exposed what were potentially the remains of a medieval, vaulted undercroft.
The application withdrawal comes after almost a year in the planning of the hotel. Artist’s impressions were released in July which showed an ultra-modern structure with a new roof line and a glass walkway for guests to look out across a panoramic city scape from a high-level hotel corridor.
Chamberlain House was once the Victorian department store Chamberlin’s situated over several storeys and renowned for its impeccable service.
Although much of the building, which extends from the corner of Guildhall Hill along Dove Street, is occupied with Tesco as well as other units such as Stranger’s Coffee, above is redundant office space.
What lies beneath
Norwich boasts many historic buildings, particularly around the Lanes but it’s often what exists beneath them which is also of concern when a site is earmarked for development.
The city is known to have at least 80 medieval undercrofts, one of the largest collections in the country, the majority dating from the 15th century and made from brick, not stone, probably because of the shortage of stone at the time.
Most are beneath domestic buildings, but some are under civic or ecclesiastical buildings, such as the Guildhall, St Andrews Hall and the Bishop’s Palace.
Some would have been used as storerooms but others would have been rented out as shops. One of the oldest, dating back to the 12th century, is under Wensum Lodge in King Street.
Other examples can be found under the Assembly House, Dragon Hall, Zelley in St Giles Street and the Louis Marchesi pub, Tombland.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.