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Should it stay or should it go? Controversy builds over fate of Norwich’s final Victorian gas holder

PUBLISHED: 15:27 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:27 06 February 2018

The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The gas holder at Gas Hill. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

Controversy is building over the potential tearing down of Norwich’s landmark Victorian gas holder - with City Hall’s own conservation department saying it cannot support its demolition.

The gas holder at Gas Hill, viewed from the Cotswold Store. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe gas holder at Gas Hill, viewed from the Cotswold Store. Plans have been put forward to demolish it. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The 16-sided Victorian gas holder, off Gas Hill, which dates back to 1880, is earmarked for removal by the National Grid, along with an underground one nearby.

The Victorian one is locally listed and Norwich City Council’s local plan - a blueprint for development in the city - wanted consideration to keeping it as part of a potential development of up to 15 homes at the site.

Yet, in their application to City Hall, the National Grid says: “It is not viable to retain the existing gas holder structure on the southern parcel of land as part of the design of future housing development.”

But officers at Norwich City Council are not convinced the case has been made to show such a development would not be viable.

Christopher Brownhill, assistant conservation and design officer at Norwich City Council, said: “Norwich City Council conservation and design cannot support the demolition of the two structures, one of which has been identified as locally significant and described by Historic England as having ‘regional importance’ based on the information supplied.

“The gas holders are a significant element of the aesthetic associated with the city skyline.

“Although they are not in a conservation area they are prominent in the views too, and from two conservation areas, one of which is defined as a ‘High significance’ character area in the local management plan.

The impact of the gas holders on the skyline is illustrative of the industrial heritage of this country and the brief but important impact technical innovation has had.

Paul Burall. Picture: Bob HobbsPaul Burall. Picture: Bob Hobbs

“They are a highly visible link between the present and the past, which is a fundamental element of historic value as defined by Historic England. By association, they also benefit from communal/social value as a reminder of the above.”

Civic watchdog the Norwich Society has also signalled it is likely to oppose the bid to demolish the Victorian gas holder. Vice chairman Paul Burall said: “It’s part of our history and we need to retain Norwich’s industrial heritage.”

Here’s some reaction to the potential demolition.

The Gas Holder off Gas Hill, Norwich, Photo: Liz Reynolds.The Gas Holder off Gas Hill, Norwich, Photo: Liz Reynolds.

Martin Halstaed: “So now a disused gas tank is part of an ‘industrial heritage’ that requires preservation? It’s odd. On the one hand, everyone is constantly annoyed at the lack of housing, and on the other, every time someone tries to free up a building site, it has to be prevented because an medieval midden or an old safety-pin factory once stood on the site.”

Martin Kentish: “Keep it, do something amazing with it and make it a landmark that keeps the industrial heritage and fulfils some other purpose. Else, we all know what’s coming in the shape of more bland, dull, uninspiring houses.”

Richard Jennings: “I’m oddly surprised that people object to the removal of this redundant ironwork. I’m sure they’d be upset if there was a planning application to build it new.”

Gasometer Gal: “Surely you can’t demolish the one on Gas Hill.”

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