Wensum Lodge entry. The older buildings to the left house adult education, to the right is the already community run sports hall. Photo © Julian Swainson 2023
Norwich Eye this evening attended a lively meeting in The King’s Centre of local residents campaigning for the retention of Wensum Lodge as a local centre for adult education and other community uses.
Wensum Lodge is part of the former brewery site between King Street and the River Wensum. It is composed of the Grade One listed Music House, which is owned by the City Council and a number of other buildings and is currently managed as an adult education facility by Norfolk County Council.
The meeting heard from local Green councillor Ben Price and two Labour County Councillors, Julie Brociek-Coulton and Steve Morphew. About 30 local residents were present and unanimously supported the retention of the centre. Unfortunately there were no councillors from the ruling Conservative administration in County Hall, who also have no councillors elected in Norwich at all.
Local councils have been starved of funding by the current Government and many are struggling to fulfil their obligations, with many important local services cut or reduced. Norfolk County Council under the Tories seems to want to cut all its services to Norwich residents and just keep taking our Council Tax funds to pay for the rest of Norfolk. They are proposing closure of Wensum Lodge, with adult education being relocated miles away. This seems to me to be a false economy, as the Wensum Lodge buildings will still require maintenance. As partly listed buildings there are high costs to some of the work required.
It was clear from the meeting that local residents are full of good ideas about how the centre could be saved and better used, but it is also clear that they are quite determined to stop Norfolk County Council from depriving Norwich of another cultural asset. King Street has a strong local community and a well run residents association so it looks as though Norfolk County Council have a fight on their hands.
This does raise the question of why Norwich does not have a unitary council running matters in the city. This had been agreed by the last Labour Government, but was torpedoed by minister Eric Pickles and the LibDem/Tory coalition government in 2010. A first priority for an incoming Labour Government must be to restore the plans for a unitary Norwich Council so important decisions like this can be taken in the city by members elected and accountable here, not by old chaps from Potter Heigham to Downham Market.
If you like Wensum Lodge and want to keep it open the message from this meeting is get involved and make some noise! Previous attempts to close the centre were thwarted by local campaigners. While we are at it let’s get the unique and wonderful Jurnet’s Bar, in the crypt of the Music House, reopened following the recent temporary closure. It is a unique atmospheric space well suited for meetings, music and social activities.
Norwich Eye will follow the Wensum Lodge campaign and keep you informed about the future of this King Street gem. Thanks must go to the King Street Neighbours group for organising this meeting.
© Julian Swainson 7/8/2023