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Apartments scheme for ex-water tower

PUBLISHED: 09:39 26 January 2009 | UPDATED: 14:58 07 July 2010

The Victorian Grade II listed water tower in Dereham which is to be turned into flats. Next to it is the current water tower.

The Victorian Grade II listed water tower in Dereham which is to be turned into flats. Next to it is the current water tower.

Once built to supply clean water to Dereham and prevent the spread of cholera, this striking Victorian landmark could soon be put to use again - as an unusual home.

Once built to supply clean water to Dereham and prevent the spread of cholera, this striking Victorian landmark could soon be put to use again - as an unusual home.

The redundant red-brick water tower on Cemetery Road, designed in the Italian gothic style, is the oldest grade II listed building of its kind in Norfolk.

But proposals have been put forward to remove the giant steel tank which used to hold 30,000 gallons of water to make way for two spacious two-storey apartments.

Planning firm John Martin and Associates submitted the plans on behalf of Anglian Water Group for a “sympathetic re-use of the redundant water tower which involves minimal alteration to the external appearance of the building.”

The designs include a steel-framed communal staircase and the removal of part of an internal wall to give an open-plan layout.

Water tower enthusiasts applauded the idea as a way to preserve the engineering and architectural heritage of the structures, built in an era when appearance was as important as functionality.

William Allwood, principal planner at John Martin and Associates, said: “As a listed building it is important to find a new use for it with minimal intervention so the fabric of the building is maintained, even if the original usefulness has gone.

“It is a very unusual space and, given the state of the housing market, we know whoever wants to live here would have an alternative view on the way they live.”

The borehole for the tower was sunk into the chalk under Cemetery Road in 1881, with the treatment works and tower completed by 1889. Treated water was pumped into the tower by a steam engine.

The site still provides water for the town through the modern concrete tower which overshadows its historic predecessor.

Nat Bocking, secretary of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society, said: “Dereham's Victorian tower has some nice Romanesque details and some lovely glazed terracotta which later towers don't have. I would rather it was converted than demolished.”

Mr Bocking urged Breckland District Council's planning committee to consider saving the site as a water history centre before granting permission for the apartments.

“In East Anglia the stock of intact Victorian water towers is diminishing and, before the last one goes, perhaps one should be preserved to show how they work and what role they have in bringing our most vital resource to our homes,” he said.

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