Enforcement action ordered after Norwich church hall built in wrong place

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:32 13 July 2018

New community centre being built on Bowthorpe Road.

New community centre being built on Bowthorpe Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Enforcement action is to be taken after a Norwich church extension was built in the wrong place.

City councillors have ordered council officers to take action because the Bowthorpe Road Methodist Church hall has been built closer to neighbouring homes than was permitted.

While members of Norwich City Council’s planning committee stopped short of saying the church hall should be rebuilt as originally approved, they want officers to insist the roof is changed.

The saga started in summer 2016, when city council officers granted permission for the church hall to be demolished and replaced.

But, last year an enforcement investigation was triggered after neighbours noticed the distance between the church hall and its boundary was not correct.

The view from the garden of one of the neighbours. Photo: ArchantThe view from the garden of one of the neighbours. Photo: Archant

City Hall officers investigated and discovered the originally approved site layout plan had been drawn incorrectly.

So, at its greatest point, the hall was being built 4.5 metres closer to the northern boundary with homes in Old School Close than it should have been.

The church lodged a new application with the city council asking permission for where it had been built.

In March, councillors deferred a decision and asked officers to try to get a solution, such as shortening the building or changing the roof style to reduce overshadowing of the nearby home in Old School Close.

But the applicants said it was not feasible to shorten the hall and said redesigning the roof with what is known as a partial hip - where the roof slopes more gently - would only bring a “negligible” difference in the amount of sunlight reaching the house next door.

The application was back before councillors yesterday, unchanged from the one which had been deferred.

Arturo Fanciulli, who lives in the nearest home, urged councillors to refuse permission and to lower the height of the roof.

The church’s agent Mark Cleveland said they would be happy to remove a nearby laurel hedge, but that hipping the roof would not make a noticeable difference to sunlight.

But Julie Brociek-Coulton, Labour councillor for Sewell, said: “I cannot work this out at all. I am flabbergasted. I think they should have to take it down”.

That was a view shared by her party colleague Hugo Malik, who represents Town Close.

Lakenham Labour councillor Keith Driver, chairman of the committee, said: “They built it exactly how we approved it, but in the wrong location.”

Mike Sands, Labour councillor for Bowthorpe, said: “The building resembles an industrial warehouse, rather than a civic building. The fact that it is a civic building should not cloud this issue. Enforcement is needed to change this. It’s inherently obvious that huge mistakes have been made.”

They stopped short of ordering officers to have the hall taken down, but unanimously rejected the plans and ordered enforcement action - with the roof replaced with a hipped one which slopes more gently.

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