Pipe Up has made a formal objection to a planning application in Norwich, involving the conversion of a former URC church in Princes Street to a music and dance venue.
The Grade II listed church closed in 2020 and has been on the market ever since.
It’s not that Pipe Up objects in principle to the conversion - there have been many like it - but that this one involves the complete removal (ie, destruction) of its 1870 Father Willis organ, which forms one of the major features of its interior. The NPOR entry is at” https://npor.org.uk/survey/N05939
The application for listed building consent gives no reason for the proposed removal. A “heritage statement” meekly asserts that as the Willis was not installed as soon as the building was built, removing it would not cause substantial damage to the significance of the building.
Pipe Up’s objection points to the existence of lots of other venues that successfully combine the conservation - and use - of a pipe organ with other activities such as rock gigs, banqueting, weddings and dance studios, everywhere from Edinburgh to London, via Wolverhampton, Reading, and elsewhere. We say that a pipe organ will enhance, not diminish, the utility of the building.
The application has caused a storm of local protests about it becoming a “nightclub”.
The church had a significant recent history. In 2014, the URC community decided to spend £300k on alterations to create community facilities. In 2018 it discovered that its roof had “nail fatigue” costing a likely £400k to repair, and in 2020 it decided to close.
We await the Norwich planning committee’s decision.
Photo credit: NPOR