24-hour health club in Norwich city centre would boost evening ecomony, say planners

Plans for a 24-hour health and fitness club in central Norwich are being backed by planners in a bid to get more people to visit the city centre in the evenings.

An application for a change of use from retail to health and fitness at the former Habitat store in London Street is recommended for approval at Thursday's Norwich City Council planning applications committee meeting.

A report to the planning committee concludes that 'on balance the proposed use can be accepted in principle because it would encourage more beneficial activity in the area in the evening – thus supporting joint core strategy objectives for the evening economy – ...and help to promote healthy lifestyles'. The plans are set to get the green light, subject to conditions, and the signing of a Section 106 agreement by the applicant to provide 17 cycle stands.

One letter of objection over the application was sent to the city council. This letter raises issues over Norwich being oversubscribed in terms of gym provision and the potential for increased traffic. The Habitat store closed in June last year after 26 years in Norwich, and the 1,624sqm site has remained empty.

The plans for a change of use of part of the first floor and all of the second floor have been submitted on behalf of The Gym Group. The Gym Group, trading as The Gym, operates in 11 other UK locations, including prestigious developments such as Liverpool One, Cabot Circus in Bristol and St George Wharf in central London.

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The operation will include a range of rowing, running, cycling, and weights equipment for individual use. Peak usage is expected at lunchtimes, from midday to 2pm, and late afternoon/early evening from 4pm to 8pm, but it will be open 24 hours a day.

As the Evening News has previously reported, various plans have been put forward to make Norwich livelier in the early evenings.

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While a report in 2010 hailed the Forum as an example to be held up to the rest of the country in how to breathe life into city centres at night, the same report said Norwich was 'unusually quiet' between 5pm and 9pm', and a 'dead zone' when shops shut and bars and restaurants get going.

The City Centre Partnership has also worked on an early evening economy project to explore ways to make the city livelier between 5pm and 9pm.

Are you planning to bring a new business to Norwich? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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