Radical ideas, including an underwater restaurant and artificial beach, to breathe new life into Norwich’s waterways

Fifteen year olds from Notre Dame with Mike Loveday and Alec Hartley, next to the river Wensum, the source of their inspiration. Photo: Steve Adams

An underground restaurant where diners can watch, as well as eat, fish and an artificial beach with a wave machine, to turn Norwich into a surfing hotspot.

Idea for small scale beach environment near city centre.

Outlandish ideas, maybe, but enthusiastic city youngsters have been praised for their innovative ideas to make more use of the city's waterways.

The Year 10 pupils at Norwich's Notre Dame High School were challenged by Jonathan Hooton, the head of geography at the school and vice-chairman of civic watchdog The Norwich Society, to think of ways to revitalise the river.

And, while some of the student's ideas were rather radical, campaigners who have long argued the potential of the river Wensum is being wasted, said planners should take a leaf out of their book.

Alec Hartley, chairman of the Wensum River Parkway Partnership and a member of the Norwich Society, said: 'If some older members of bodies and interests along the river had half the enthusiasm and drive shown by these young students we would have a river corridor through the city humming with activity and enterprise.'

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One of the most ambitious ideas was for a £6m artificial beach and surfing centre - an idea developed by Leon Culot, Daniel Carroll and Ben Mills, all aged 15.

The scheme would develop waves up to four metres high by using a 30-metre wide point break wave machine and heat-treat the water up to 30C – the same as the Gulf of Mexico.

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As well as the 200-metre long beach the development envisages a California-themed family restaurant and surfing equipment hire centre.

Leon explained: 'We wanted to come up with something unusual and a bit more fun. Being from Norwich, you have to go quite a way to get to the beach, so we thought, why not bring the beach to Norwich?

'During research we saw that there's a number of cities which have artificial beaches, but none seemed to be making use of the water too, so we designed in a wave machine to create waves for surfing.'

Another team of 15-year-old boys - Nick Barnham, Will Showler, Ben Boys and Josiah Carmona - came up with the idea of a boat bus.

That bus, aimed at both tourists and commuters, would feature stops including Carrow Road, Thorpe Station, Fye Bridge and St George's.

Three 15-year-old girls – Rebecca Wren, Florence Bond and Maddy Cahalan-Penning - take their inspiration from Cambridge's highly-developed use of the River Cam for tourism and recreation.

They suggest floating restaurants, as well as an underwater eatery where diners can view the fish at their leisure,

They also envisage much greater use of watersports and race days to attract crowds.

Mr Hartley said even the more colourful suggestions have a hard core of possibility.

And Mike Loveday, chief executive of Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) said: 'It's really inspiring to see what bright young people, unrestrained by the shackles of risk aversion, can come up with.

'While come of the ideas generated might be seen as rather radical, its always good to encourage thinking out of the box and taking a more lateral approach to problem solving.'

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