Revealed: Revamp plan for Norwich’s Wensum Lodge centre
PUBLISHED: 15:51 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:51 08 January 2019
Norwich’s Wensum Lodge could be set for a revamp, if proposals to turn it into a creative hub for the city get the go-ahead and the money needed for the transformation can be found.
The King Street venue has been the base for Norfolk’s adult education services for more than 40 years, but bosses at Norfolk County Council say use of it has declined in recent years.
So, with the help of Hudson Architects, they have come up with a vision of how it could be turned into a creative hub, pending surveys and feasibility studies to ensure a realistic picture of potential costs.
While the council would continue to provide adult education courses there, new shared spaces will allow small creative and arts organisations and community groups to use the site.
The council says short-term rental space for start-up creative and arts organisations - and potentially spaces for exhibitions and shops - would bring in money to offset the £350,000 it currently costs the council to run the centre.
The possibility of using outdoor areas to host craft markets or outdoor performances, will also be explored.
Funding for the project will also be sought from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Arts Council England and the Crafts Council.
Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of the council’s communities committee, which will be asked to approve the vision and agree the next steps at a meeting next week, said: “We believe that Wensum Lodge is a unique regional economic asset which will be highly attractive to a number of external investors and funders.
“Any ongoing programme of adult learning courses could be enhanced and grown by the addition of other creative and arts organisations.”
The council says support has been widespread and sees it as complementary to similar city developments, such as at nearby Dragon Hall, now home to the National Centre for Writing.
There has been a move away from using Wensum Lodge for all adult education courses, with more of the courses run by its Norfolk Community Learning Services department in the community.
The council says bringing extra income into the site will free up resources for courses in other parts of the county.
The cost of the scheme is not currently clear, and nor is where the funding would come from.
A spokesman for the council said: “If the proposals are agreed we will carry out a series of surveys on the site to give us a clear idea of the costs involved, and enable us to develop a business case.
“To finance the work we will approach a number of external funders and also look at an ‘invest to save’ option, funded by Norfolk County Council.”
The changes would not affect the neighbouring Wensum Sports Centre. A volunteer-led charity formed in 2010 to save it from closure and runs the centre for the community.