Norwich Georgian house conversion plans disappoint expert

Gladstone House Gladstone House was once the base of the Liberal Party in Norwich

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A council conservation officer concerned at a bid to turn a Grade II-listed house in Norwich into an £8.5m writers' centre has criticised planners for failing to heed expert advice.

Writers' Centre Norwich's plans for Gladstone House, in St Giles Street, go before councillors on Thursday.

City council planners are recommending the plan is approved.

The conservation officer says planners have gone against the advice of experts in backing the plans.

Artist's impression of new writers' centre If the plans are approved, the centre is due to open to the public in 2016

Among those to oppose the plans for the Georgian building are English Heritage, while the Georgian Group has called for changes to the plans.

Norwich City Council has said it can not comment in the run-up to the meeting.

Conservation officer Chloe Canning-Trigg has written two reports to the council about the plans.

In the first she says: "The proposed alterations would cause substantial harm to the listed building and its setting."

She says there is not enough justification for the removal of a 1790s staircase and there needs to be a proper acoustic survey of the building and the need for sound insulation.

Ms Canning-Trigg says if these and other concerns raised by Georgian Group and other organisations are not addressed the application "should be withdrawn or refused".

In a second report, submitted after the city council had decided to recommend the scheme's approval, Ms Canning-Trigg says the recommendation "usurped" her consultation advice and was "contrary to the advice of internal and external consultees".

Artist's impression of new writers' centre The centre would have a 120-capacity auditorium in the garden

She says she was "disappointed" that concerns raised had not been addressed.

In a report to the council, officers say the scheme would benefit the cultural status of the city.

The report says the plans do not amount to "substantial harm" to a listed building.

If the plans are approved, at a meeting of the council's planning committee on 6 March, the centre could open to the public by autumn 2016.

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