Civic watchdog chief in call for life and vigour to return to city district

Business owners in Magdalen St, Norwich are hoping to set up a traders association to promote the va

Business owners in Magdalen St, Norwich are hoping to set up a traders association to promote the variety of businesses in the historic trading street.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

An impassioned plea has been made by an influential watchdog for council chiefs and developers to end years of bad decisions and neglect in one of the most historic parts of the city.

Ruth and Julian Kitcher in their Jerusalem street food eatery called Ruth's Kitchen in Magdalen Stre

Ruth and Julian Kitcher in their Jerusalem street food eatery called Ruth's Kitchen in Magdalen Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The call to breathe new life into the tarnished treasure that is Magdalen Street has been made by Mary Ash, who last night ended her stint as chairman of the Norwich Society.

In her parting speech at the organisation's annual general meeting, Mrs Ash criticised the way Magdalen Street and the area known to planners as the Northern City Centre has been treated over the decades.

She said it had been ruined by the ring road flyover and successive intensive building scheme, but that it was not too late for the council to do more to boost the area and for developers to be sympathetic to the area's medieval past when designing new homes.

Mrs Ash called for a community-based architectural competition to redesign the district and to rename it.

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She said: 'Let's have an architectural competition to redesign this heritage-rich, victimised Northern City Centre, and how about calling it by its old name, Norwich-Over-The-Water?

'This kind of community-based project is being built in several cities, and it's not just an idealistic fantasy. Can we please ask our city council to push for a scheme which will put life and homes and vigour back into the oldest part of our fine city?'

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The Norwich Society, which successfully fought to prevent Elm Hill from being demolished in the 1920s, had put forward a number of recommendations for how the area should develop in 2006 and 2008.

Highlighting the specialist shops in Magdalen Street as one of the success stories of the area, she said she hoped the new owners of Anglia Square would embrace a 'wonderful opportunity' to create 'architect-designed, small-scale family housing in traditional courtyards and closes.'

Julian Kitcher, who owns the Jerusalem-themed cafe Ruth's Kitchen in Magdalen Street with his wife Ruth, has been trying to get a traders' association set up in the street.

He has previously called for the city council to put more money into the area and welcomed Mrs Ash's comments.

He said: 'I think that's a very significant statement which she has made. I think the city as a whole really wants Magdalen Street to be thriving. But whenever I have spoken to the council they say there isn't the money available.'

Alan Waters, deputy leader of Norwich City Council, said there was likely to be regeneration possibilities around the redevelopment of Anglia Square.

He said: 'The city council will always look to ensure the benefit will spread through the area as part of any developments with Section 106 agreements.

'There is certainly going to be change in the area related to the Anglia Square development which is in its early stages.'

He added: 'Historically the city council has invested in properties in Magdalen Street to bring out the fine architectural features in the area. We are very committed to making sure that we have investments across the city, in some of the areas that are undergoing fundamental redevelopment, but also to maintain the historic fabric of the city.'

Teacher takes over as new chairman of the Norwich Society

The Norwich Society, which was founded in 1923 and is known as a watchdog on conservation and planning issues, has a new chairman.

He is Jonathan Hooton, head of geography at Notre Dame High School, where he has taught since 1980.

Mr Hooton has served for two years as vice chairman, and as chairman of the watchdog's environment committee, where he was particularly active on green and green-space issues.

The Committee's survey of churchyards has contributed to new initiatives to plant and enhance city centre graveyards starting with St Margaret's in St Benedict's Street.

Mr Hooton's association with Norwich began in 1977 when he was a driving force behind a re-enactment of will Kemp's Morris dance from Norwich to London to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

He has remained a keen Morris dancer and recently qualified as a City of Norwich Tourist Guide.

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