Battle to protect Norwich’s medieval city walls receives time and cash boost

Protectors of the medieval city walls in Norwich are hoping to save cash and slash waiting times for urgent repairs by up to 12 months.

Norwich City Council faces an ongoing battle to preserve the much-loved walls, with water, road salt and plants causing damage throughout the year.

Now officials at City Hall are in talks with English Heritage about making it easier to patch-up the early 14th century structures.

It is hoped the deal, known as a heritage partnership agreement, will prevent permission being required from English Heritage every time the council wants to carry out repairs on the walls.

Officials say this can be a time-consuming and costly process.

Dr Will Fletcher, an English Heritage inspector of ancient monuments in Norfolk, said the agreements were being piloted, with very few in the east of England.

He said: 'We would like to make sure that the money from the city council is delivered to where it really needs to be – maintaining the monument so it survives.

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'That's the important thing rather than spending on paperwork and management. I think that's a good aspiration.'

The city council is expected to spend �62,000 in 2011/12 looking after the walls, which are split into 15 sections.

Future work earmarked for 2012/13 includes repairing the arches off Barn Road, with a bid for funding submitted.

Steve Brown, principal technical officer at Norwich City Council, said he had been looking after the walls for three years and said it was a 'constant battle'.

He said: 'All we can do is repoint and repair where there's danger. It sounds reactive, but we've so much of the city walls that we can only repair where there is danger.

'From a heritage and convenience point of view, if you ask a lot of the locals the walls are part of the city and they are really proud of them, whereas others say it's a waste of money. Personally I love these walls.'

Mr Brown said water seeping into cracks, and then freezing and thawing, along with road salt and plants growing on the walls caused parts of the stonework to become loose.

Repairs to a stretch of the wall in Chapel Field Road are nearing completion after two weeks of work.

Mr Brown said: 'We've gone for an honest repair. We've not tried to make it look like it's all original. Any expert who comes along will know it's a modern rebuild.

'It's a case of inspecting the walls periodically then reacting. Health and safety comes first. Nobody wants a big flint falling on their head. These repairs should outlive me.

'Buildings are not designed to last forever and the walls are buildings. One day the city walls will not be here but the council owns them, we are proud of them, people are proud of them and as an authority we love the structures and will continue to maintain them to the best of our abilities.'

Mr Brown added the council's relationship with English Heritage was strong and a heritage partnership agreement would be beneficial.

He said: 'We would not have six months or a year delays before we crack on with the work. The partnership agreement is more about working together.'

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