£8.5m National Centre for Writing in Norwich clears yet another hurdle

Artists impression of the new Writers Centre. Photo: Supplied

Artists impression of the new Writers Centre. Photo: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

A new £8.5m literary centre for Norwich has cleared another hurdle after the secretary of state announced he would not seek to 'call in' a decision to grant it planning permission.

The revamp of Grade II-listed Gladstone House, in St Giles' Street in Norwich, to create a National Centre for Writing, has proved controversial.

A 321-signature petition against what objectors dubbed a '21st century folly' was submitted to City Hall ahead of May's Norwich City Council planning committee where permission was granted.

However, communities secretary Eric Pickles had asked to be given time to decide to 'call in' the application or not, which meant planning consent could not be formally given until he had made that decision.

But, the government has now told the city council that Mr Pickles does not intend to 'call in' the plans, which means the scheme can now go ahead.

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Writers' Centre Norwich, which is behind the plans, said it would establish a world class centre for literary study, translation and performance.

Chris Gribble, chief executive, said he had yet to be officially notified of the secretary of state's decision, but said: 'If that is the case then we are very pleased.'

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He said the centre was on track to open in October 2016, with work starting in summer next year.

The plan includes a new 120-seat auditorium for book readings in the garden of the house, which was built in the late 18th century.

It would also see the later rear annexe knocked down, with apartments built for a writer and translator in residence.

Teaching spaces, a private basement bar and a café also form part of the proposals.

Objectors had said the work would damage the building and obscure its south facade, while heritage groups also raised concerns, but the planning committee granted permission by eight votes to three, with one abstention.

Are you looking forward to the National Centre for Writing opening? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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