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Fate of former city rock bar finally sealed as latest plan is approved

PUBLISHED: 09:22 18 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:04 18 November 2019

Former Owl Sanctuary regulars protesting against its closure in 2016 PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Former Owl Sanctuary regulars protesting against its closure in 2016 PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Hopes of a former rock bar one day being brought back into action as a venue have been dashed, after permission to convert into flats was finally granted.

The Owl Sanctuary on Cattle Market Street, which is to be turned into flats Photo by Simon Finlay.The Owl Sanctuary on Cattle Market Street, which is to be turned into flats Photo by Simon Finlay.

The former Owl Sanctuary on Cattle Market Street was once a major part in the city's live music scene, a role it also played during its time as The Marquee.

However, at the start of 2016 it was sold to property developer Richard Pratt and was closed, prompting a fierce online campaign to save it.

A petition was signed by more than 2,300 people to salvage the use and list it as an asset of community value.

Once the team behind the venue relocated into what is now Voodoo Daddy's on Timber Hill, however, the building was left dormant.

Three years ago, Mr Pratt, who also owns the neighbouring Crystal House, vowed to turn the premises into a "mid-market" pub and restaurant - however this plan never materialised.

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Now though, the site's future has been sealed, with Norwich City Council's planning department using delegated power to give a housing scheme for it the green light.

The plans, from the Richard Pratt Retirement Benefit Scheme, will see the building converted into six flats, in a development that will also see a three story building behind it provide another two homes.

In a far cry from the initial reaction in 2016, the plan faced no formal opposition, freeing officers to make a decision without the need for a planning committee.

In his report approving the scheme, case officer Joy Brown wrote: "The loss of a public house is considered acceptable as there are numerous alternative public houses in close proximity.

"The proposed conversion of this locally listed building will secure its future."

In the application, which was submitted in August, it was claimed that "all reasonable efforts" were made to preserve the facility, but that a new tenant prepared to take on the work necessary to bring it back into use as a pub could not be found.

The pub dates back to 1833, when it was known as Shirehall Tavern. It also had a spell as an Australian-themed venue, before becoming well known for live music as The Marquee and most latterly, the Owl Sanctuary.

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