MJB hotel owner Tony Burlingham says access to Norwich’s plantation gardens could be restored by spring

Feature on Plantation Gardens, Earlham Road, Norwich for EDP Sunday.

Feature on Plantation Gardens, Earlham Road, Norwich for EDP Sunday. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY COPY:steve snelling FOR:EDP sunday © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010 (01603 772434) - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

Access to Norwich's Plantation Garden could reopen to the public by spring, the owner of MJB hotels has said.

Tony Burlingham. Photo: Bill Smith Photo: Bill Smith Archant � 2012 (01603) 772434

Tony Burlingham. Photo: Bill Smith Photo: Bill Smith Archant � 2012 (01603) 772434 - Credit: Archant � 2007

Tony Burlingham, who runs the controversial hotel chain, is planning to board up entrances to the site, off Earlham Road, on January 27.

He said the proposed move was due to health and safety concerns following sinkholes opening up at three of his nearby hotels.

It will mean that from next Friday, people will no longer be able to visit the popular Victorian garden.

But Mr Burlingham has today said the closure will only be a temporary measure until an underground assessment is carried out.

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He explained: 'Before the sinkholes can be filled, we have to make sure the land is safe so that the lorries can come in.

'You can't drive 1,000 tonnes of concrete on something that is not stable. But how are you meant to solve this if the public can just walk past?

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'If the assessment comes back and it is safe, then I will open the entrances again.'

Mr Burlingham said it was 'common sense' to ensure the public and contractors were not walking on unstable ground.

Probes installed underneath his Plantation House Hotel and Governors Hotel confirmed the presence of a chalk mine.

And documents seen by this newspaper also suggest the mine runs directly underneath Plantation Garden.

Mr Burlingham said he intends to have a full underground survey carried out on his land once the access routes are closed off.

Concrete will then be poured into the sinkholes and rebuilding work will begin on Plantation House, which was damaged by subsidence last April.

While he does not own the garden site itself, he owns all of the access routes leading to it.

Plantation Garden Preservation Trust and Norwich City Council meeting

Roger Connah, chairman of the trust, met with councillors on Tuesday to discuss ways of keeping the gardens open.

He said it had been a 'constructive' meeting between both parties, and that every endeavour was being taken to resolve the issue.

'We need to take action within this period, rather than let it drift,' he said.

Mr Connah warned that closing off the garden to the public would lead to its deterioration.

'The danger of allowing its closure, is that it will deteriorate rapidly and could be damaged,' he added. 'Because access can be obtained via illegal means.'

Speaking about the meeting on Tuesday, a spokesman for the city council said: 'Following a positive meeting between Roger Connah, chairman of the Plantation Garden Preservation Trust, and the city council, we will be working together to resolve the issues affecting the site.'

Following the move to close off access, an online petition was subsequently launched by Rose Hanison, who runs the Black Horse on Earlham Road.

It has now gathered more than 6,400 signatures.

To sign the petition, visit https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-the-plantation-gardens-open

Are you concerned about the closure of land near you, call Luke Powell on 01063 772684

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