Historic Britons Arms in Elm Hill, Norwich saved from being sold at auction

Campaigners are celebrating after one of Norwich's oldest buildings was saved for future generations.

The Britons Arms cafe and restaurant, in historic Elm Hill, was listed for auction by Norwich City Council after deciding the 15th century building was surplus to requirements.

But the council agreed at a meeting on Wednesday to apply to English Heritage for funding to undertake structural works to the property, and then for Norwich Preservation Trust to take on the building's lease and keep it under public ownership.

The council said this could be done without any costs being passed to Norwich council taxpayers and will also mean the building will remain part of its property portfolio.

The building's tenants of 35 years, sisters Gilly Mixer, 58, and Sue Skipper, 60, collected 1,700 names on a petition to save the building and were joined by heritage experts and Green Party politicians in launching the 'Up In Arms' campaign against it being sold into private hands.

Ms Mixer said: 'It's been a really difficult fight, but we have had immense support from everybody and that's been fabulous. And we have got the best outcome we could have hoped for.

'If the building had gone into private hands, people may not have had access to it again. Everybody wants public ownership of the building so people can see it, as it's a magnificent building.'

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Her sister added: 'I'm rejoicing - it's so good.

'I'm absolutely delighted. An enormous number of people have worked really hard for this and I thank them all. We have had messages from all over the world in support. The press have been marvellous, too.'

At the council cabinet meeting, Alan Waters, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said: 'We have worked in collaboration with English Heritage and the Norwich Preservation Trust to try to find a way to restore this building without passing that cost on to taxpayers.

'The intention of a sale, or partnership with a trust, was always to get someone else to pay for the things we could not afford to do in order to protect and preserve the building and protect the commercial interests of the people of Norwich. We could not continue to subsidise this commercial operation over any other.

'This arrangement will mean that although the council will not benefit from immediate money from a sale, in the longer term, it will benefit from retaining a fully renovated heritage property as part of its portfolio.'

As reported, the repair work to the building – one of a handful of thatched houses left in the city after it escaped the great fires of the 16th century – has now risen in cost from �10,000 to about �35,000.