OPINION: Why Norwich needs a John Lennon statue to welcome visitors

John Lennon, left with other members of The Beatles at the Grosvenor Rooms in Norwich in 1963

John Lennon, left with other members of The Beatles at the Grosvenor Rooms in Norwich in 1963 - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

A revamped area of Norwich has been finished off with a car parking sign. Nick Richards says it needed a quirky statue instead - and here's why John Lennon fits the bill

The revamped area of Rose Lane and Prince of Wales Road in Norwich which needs a quirky statue rathe

The revamped area of Rose Lane and Prince of Wales Road in Norwich which needs a quirky statue rather than a car parking sign, says Nick Richards - Credit: Archant

It's not often you hear praise following a year of roadworks and delays.

But after enduring months and months of crash barriers, diversions and whistling workmen hammering and drilling in Norwich's Rose Lane and Prince of Wales Road, the area is now looking great.

My route to work at this paper takes me over the bridge at the bottom of Prince of Wales Road and up Rose Lane, crossing the triangle-shaped bit of land in front of Eastbourne Place with Rose Lane and Prince of Wales Road running either side of it.

I used to dread the walk or bike ride into work.

For cyclists the area was terrible. A split in the cycle path outside what is now Budgens would send you either up towards Tombland where the cycle path would run out just as you came past the boarded-up old toilet block and two old phone boxes. There were little bits of stop/start cycle path that left me bemused and befuddled every time I tried to ride on them.

Go left up Rose Lane on a bike and you'd be flung on the far right of the road where you'd battle with buses for space as you climbed the hill.

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Now it's all changed and it's nearly, so nearly, perfect.

That triangular piece of land that used to house a few trees, bushes, that toilet block, some weird concrete circles and unkempt bushes with ivy dragging its way over the cycle path has been transformed and landscaped into a sleek walkway with good use of cycle paths and pedestrian routes.

Cyclists have a designated path to enjoy that Rose Lane climb and there's a lovely modern bench there too in the centre of the triangle. It's somewhere you could genuinely contemplate stopping for a break - the tramps and empty drinks bottles seem to have also been miraculously evicted since the work finished.

With most of the work done, just before Christmas they started putting in plants and laying grass and I got a tad excited by the building of a plinth at the very top of the triangle.

How could they top off this great bit of urban planning? Surely something dynamic and interesting would grace this space?

Well, no. They ended up putting a massive sign directing drivers to three car parks with a display of the number of spaces available.

This seems like a massive let down to me - I mean, it's 2020 - isn't there an app that people can download to find this information anyway?

In my opinion it would have been far better for this gateway into Norwich to have a statue that would put a smile on the face of people driving in from east Norfolk or walking into the city from the railway station.

So, who would go on it? Duncan Forbes in his Mousehold Heath running pose? Anyone who has taken part in the Run Norwich 10k knows that the 5k and 6k markers are either side of this point - you can still see them sprayed onto the pavements if you look hard enough - and this would be a nice tribute.

Delia Smith with a Norwich City scarf held aloft or maybe even a horse to symbolise 200 years this year since Black Beauty author Anna Sewell was born?

Or who wouldn't love to drive into Norwich and have the Singing Postman's cheeky toothy grin looking down on them?

My vote is actually something of a curveball. This year is 80 years since John Lennon was born and 40 years since he died. What's more The Beatles played their one and only gig in the city back in May 1963 almost opposite this space at the Grosvenor Rooms before they went for some chips at Valori's on Rose Lane.

OK so Lennon doesn't have any local links but surely the fact that the singer from the biggest pop band of all time once roamed the Rose Lane streets merits some kind of acknowledgment?

Liverpool is the furthest place you can go directly on a train from Norwich and it could draw in tourists from around the world.

Lennon holding a sign with "Welcome To Norwich... an I Feel Fine City" would make me smile, certainly more than seeing how many parking spaces were left at John Lewis.