Row over plans for Gladstone House in Norwich

Gladstone House Image copyright Other
Image caption Gladstone House was once the base of the Liberal Party in Norwich

Plans to turn a Grade II-listed house in Norwich into an £8.5m writers' centre are being backed by planners, despite opposition from experts.

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

Norwich City Council officers said in a report the scheme would benefit the cultural status of the city.

But English Heritage and the Georgian Group said the changes would harm a listed building.

Under the plans, the Georgian building's rear annex would be demolished and replaced with a 120-capacity auditorium that would host book readings and performances.

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Image caption The centre would have a 120-capacity auditorium in the garden

Thomas Ziolkowski, Norwich resident and spokesman for the Friends of Gladstone House, said he was concerned the scheme would damage the look of a historical building.

"The plan to substantially harm Gladstone House as proposed and build a new auditorium, obscuring most of its beautiful south facade from public view, is definitely not the best and most appropriate way to conserve this beautiful building," he said.

A report to the council said English Heritage was recommending the application should be refused due to a "lack of clear and convincing justification for some of the proposals".

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Image caption If the plans are approved, the centre is due to open to the public in 2016

Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich, said: "We don't want to do anything to compromise the building. I think we have done a really sensitive job. We think it is going to be a flagship venue."

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.

In 2012, Norwich was named as England's first City of Literature by the United Nation's organisation Unesco.

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