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How close Norwich came to having a rope walk above city streets

PUBLISHED: 11:56 20 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:27 20 October 2019

How a sky walk around Norwich city centre could have looked. Picture: Hudson Architects

How a sky walk around Norwich city centre could have looked. Picture: Hudson Architects

Hudson Architects

Picture tip-toeing through the Norwich skyline, above the streets and rooftops of the fine city on a sky-high rope walk.

How a sky walk around Norwich city centre could have looked. Picture: Hudson ArchitectsHow a sky walk around Norwich city centre could have looked. Picture: Hudson Architects

This is an experience limited solely to the imagination now; but at one point it was a vision with a very serious possibility of happening.

In the run-up to the Norfolk and Norwich Festival back in 2016, serious talks were held over the possibility of a Bewilderwood-style rope walk taking visitors on a rooftop walk of the city centre.

The lofty trail would have taken people from the grounds of Norwich Castle across Castle Meadow, above the Lanes via the Market Place and back again, providing incomparable bird's eye views of the city.

The idea was pioneered by the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) alongside festival organisers and was planned as a two-year temporary installation.

Stefan Gurney from the Norwich Business Improvement District. Photo: Bethany WalesStefan Gurney from the Norwich Business Improvement District. Photo: Bethany Wales

The proposal reached an advanced stage, with Norwich-based architects Hudson enlisted to put together designs for the project.

However, as feasibility studies were carried out, it emerged that the vision would just be too costly to become a reality - with the scheme estimated to cost more than three times the amount the BID had hoped it would be able to deliver it for.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, said: "It was certainly an ambitious project which would have been a truly amazing piece of work if it could have happened.

"The hope was that we would be able to make it happen for something in the region of £500,000 and £750,000, so we set about getting designs drawn up.

"There really was a great deal of excitement and support about the project and lots of the people who were involved were really engaged with it."

However when feasibility studies suggested the project was likely to cost closer to the £3.5m mark, it was decided that it just was not financially viable.

Mr Gurney added: "Had it happened I do really believe it would have driven footfall and created a real interest in the city - even on a national basis.

"It may also have proved self sustaining in time, however, we just didn't think it would have been financially feasible to pull together the capital funds to build it in the first place.

"It's just one of those ones you would love to think could happen one day, but the time just wasn't right.

"It may also have proved difficult to get all the necessary permissions to make it happen, as it would need to make use of the rooftops of various different buildings.

"You never say never with these things, but as time goes on it would likely be more and more expensive to deliver - but if somebody has a spare £3m lying around and wants to work with us, then who knows?"

The designs for the attraction are currently on display at an exhibition called Unbuilt Norwich at Hudson's studio on St Andrew's Street, which is showcasing several pieces of work produced by local architects that never came to fruition.

The exhibition runs until November 2 and is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and by appointment.

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