£14m plans for Norwich cathedral get go-ahead
Councillors have backed £14m plans for a new education centre at Norwich Cathedral despite fears that building work could kill a 40-year-old protected copper beech tree.
It came down to a choice between a 40-year-old beech tree and the future of a cathedral that is nearly 1,000 years old.
The £14m scheme to extend Norwich Cathedral came under threat when planners said the building work could kill off a copper beech tree close to the site.
But yesterday councillors voted to press ahead with the plans to build the new education centre, called a hostry, at the cathedral even though it means the tree, which is protected under new laws, will probably die.
The beech, which stands in Cathedral Square, is located so close to walls planned for the new hostry, that building it would mean cutting off a sizeable chunk of its roots, which could kill the tree or make it unstable and a danger to the public.
Despite city council planning officers' concerns, councillors agreed that the international importance of the cathedral and the amount of visitors it attracts to Norwich each year meant that the new visitors' centre could not be abandoned. But they said that everything possible must be done to try to save the tree.
Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Graham Smith said: “These alterations to the Cathedral have been paid for by £2.3m from the Heritage Lottery fund and most importantly £12.3m from generous citizens in Norwich and all over the world. This visitors' centre will allow us to let people see our Cathedral and to learn why it is here in Norwich and about its importance worldwide.
“If we put a stop to the building of the hostry, which is to be built along the foundation of the Cathedral's old hostry, then we will lose the Heritage lottery grant and all of those people's hard work will be lost.”
New laws which came into effect in 2005 require planners to consider certain tree species, especially beech, and to plan developments to cause minimum disturbance to trees. Planners must justify removing any trees from a site, and applications must be altered if council officers believe there is a way of preserving the tree alongside new buildings.
When the plans for the hostry were first approved in 1999 no legislation existed to protect the tree, but when the new laws came into force officers felt the issues needed to be decided on by councillors.
Green Councillor Adrian Holmes said that he believed that planners could have built the hostry without harming the roots of the tree.
He said: “This old tree has taken 40 years to grow to this size and we are going to wipe it out with a few months of building work.”
Work will begin on the new hostry later this year.
Pictured above is Norwich Cathedral.
Story courtesy of www.eveningnews.co.uk