Comment: “Expansion is inevitable, but Norwich’s identity is indestructible”

As sad as it is, the impending threat of urbanisation is a palpable one nationwide and now it is the turn of Norwich to feel the tremors. This, I wonder as I sit aboard the top deck of the bus, peering through the steamed window at the rolling swathes of scenery beyond it. Of course, it could all look different in a few years: new homes, shops, a car park and a hotel, propositions that have of course been met with wide protest. Norwich is, unfortunately, a victim of its own success with tourism reaching the level it has, it has gleaned something of a worldwide reputation. Fears are prevalent. The scathing phrase ‘clone city’ has been thrown around among opposers, a dark image of a potential dystopia. But, as the bus came to a halt in the heart of town, I realised something. Norwich is a wonderfully unique place. From the gentle bustle of the market on Gentlemen’s Walk, through the quiet cobbles of Tombland and all the way down to the roaring nightlife of the Prince of Wales Road; Norwich captures, paradoxically yet extraordinarily, the essential spark of town, village and city. Norwich the place and Norwich the idea are intertwined but ultimately separate. Where Norwich is, lies in the aesthetic; it’s the place on the map near the edge of the sticky out bit in the middle. However, what Norwich is, lies deeper. It’s not about the buildings or streets but the stories that the buildings and streets can tell. Norwich is in a place that the shadow of urbanisation can never reach and no amount of tower blocks will be able to corrupt its essence. Expansion is inevitable, true, but the identity of the town cannot be damaged.


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Max Pleasance

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November 2021
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