Could new flats and coronavirus spell the end for street as centre of Norwich night life?
PUBLISHED: 16:35 26 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:00 27 July 2020
Most people living in and around Norwich will associate Prince of Wales Road with night life - the street where nights out generally end - be it for a late night bar, a kebab or pizza, or to pick up a taxi home.
Home to bars, takeaways and the city’s first and only super club the street is known far and wide as the city’s entertainment district.
However, earlier this year plans to convert the former Mercy Nightclub into a mixed-use development hinged around 49 new homes were given the go ahead - which coupled with the existing challenges of Covid-19 could bring about seismic change for the area.
This month, proposals were also unveiled to turn the former Alan Boswell office, on the corner of St Faith’s Lane into up to 25 flats, potentially bringing further residential development to the street.
And with nearby King Street also in the midst of a gentrification - with more than 400 homes on the way through the multi-million pound St Anne’s Quarter development - it raises questions over the area’s future as a late night entertainment hot spot.
As has been seen in the past, maintaining harmonious relationships between entertainment venues and neighbours can prove difficult - and the more residential an area is the more difficult striking this balance can become.
MORE: First look at what redevelopment of Mercy Nightclub could look like
Gavin Tempest, the founder of Norwich-based National Licensing Associates, acts as a consultant for venues across the region, which sees him represent them at licensing hearings and help with applications.
He said that venue owners may be left feeling threatened by housing development, despite licensing policy specifying that pre-existing businesses ought to be given priority if disputes over noise nuisance do arise.
A principle in planning regulations know as ‘agents of change’, states that “existing businesses and facilities should not have unreasonable restrictions placed on them as a result of development permitted after they were established”.
Mr Tempest said: “The main issue with agents of change is that it is simply a policy, not a point of law. Therefore, while it is a consideration and you do get situations where people move into an area without knowing much about it then complain.
“I imagine venue owners in the area may well feel threatened by the prospect of development and it will inevitably make it more difficult for new venues to open in future.”
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Mr Tempest said new residential development could pose a particular challenge for sexual entertainment venues, which require their licences to be reviewed on a yearly basis.
He added: “In the past you have seen residential developments in other parts of the country which result in venue operators, through no fault of their own, being asked to have tighter restrictions put against them.
“As with anyone moving anywhere, people potentially looking at taking up residence need to do so with a knowledge of where they are moving to and an understanding of the surroundings.”
For Andy Gotts though, a stalwart of the city’s late night economy, running Fluke and Envy on Prince of Wales Road, it is the economy that poses the biggest threat to city venues and not potential residential development.
He said: “Personally, I would much rather see homes than empty offices or buildings. The more people there are living in the city centre the better it is for all businesses, not just in our industry.
“Geographically, I don’t really see the night life moving from where it is at the moment. Both the Mercy and Alan Boswell buildings are towards the bottom of the street whereas further up there is almost a pattern of bar, taxi rank, takeaway and repeat. I don’t really see that changing.
MORE: City’s clubland could ‘return to glory days’ after lockdown, bar bosses say
Mr Gotts, who is also chairman of Late Night Norwich, a committee representing club and bar owners, said there had been fears in the past that increased gentrification would pose a threat, but that to date he had not experienced any issues.
He said: “A few years ago when Britannia House was turned into flats quite a lot was said about whether noise complaints would become a problem, but we really haven’t had anything of the sort.
“The biggest threat to us at the minute will be the economy, not development. If we are plunging into the worst recession this country has seen in a generation and people no longer turn to us for nights out, we are all businesses after all.
“God knows what the future holds in that sense.”
Other residential parts of the street include Grosvenor House - a block of 72 apartments - homes within Hardwick House, and above a number of the shops on the street.
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