The John Jarrold Printing Museum in Norwich will be relocated and scaled down after councillors approved plans for new homes to be built on its existing site.
Norwich City Council’s planning committee granted permission yesterday (14 March) for Hill Residential to build 218 homes at the site, which is owned by Jarrold & Sons.
The redevelopment plans to build the new homes as well as apartments and commercial space at the Whitefriars site on Barrack Street, the former location of the Jarrold Printing business, were originally submitted last year.
While the old printing factory had already been flattened to make way for the redevelopment, the Printing Museum is still located there in what was the engineers’ workshop, but that site will now be demolished.
It had already been confirmed that the museum will be accommodated as part of the new development, but it will be significantly pared back with many of its artefacts likely to be rehomed or disposed of.
Eastern Daily Press said the planning application was approved by seven votes to five following nearly two hours of debate yesterday.
The publication reported that Labour councillor for Lakenham and planning committee chairman Keith Driver said: “I’ve never been there, I must admit, however I believe the history it celebrates will be opened up to the wider people of Norwich by this proposal – particularly to children.
“At the moment it only opens three hours a week, while the new location would be open five days a week. That can only be good for Norwich.”
Campaigners against the plans in attendance at the meeting included current museum volunteers and Paul Nash, chairman of the Printing Historical Society, who presented to councillors why he believed the museum should be preserved in its current form.
He told PrintWeek today that he felt the meeting was "a bit of a travesty" and biased in favour of the planning proposals.
"It was only really me that was able to speak in favour of the museum and against the application," Nash said.
"I think the chairman was also tremendously biased in favour of the proposal from the start and really didn't conduct the meeting in an unbiased way."
He added: "The only reaction to what I'd said was from the planning officers, who mentioned that I'd compared the museum to the Science Museum's holdings, saying that the Science Museum was the only museum with greater holdings of printing historical equipment in the country.
"And they said, quite meaninglessly, that this was a pointless comparison because it was a different sort of museum. That wasn't the point at all - the point I was making was that the holdings of the Jarrold museum were of such extent and importance that they were second only to the Science Museum."
A spokesperson for Norwich City Council told PrintWeek: “All planning applications are subject to the same statutory process, which takes into account potential benefits alongside any objections.
“Anyone that has submitted an objection to an application taken to committee is able to speak at the public meeting and, in this case, objections to the changes to the print museum were presented by a single representative who spoke on behalf of other objectors.
“The planning report and officers’ presentation included a summary of the strategy detailing future plans for the privately-owned museum submitted by its owners, Jarrold.”
Prior to the meeting, Nash had told PrintWeek that the proposed new museum is “very small and a static display”, will not require any staff to run it, and that “the vast bulk” of the material held by the current museum would be disposed of.
This morning, Nash said: "We're now going to try and campaign for [the disposal of the artefacts] not to happen and to try and find some way to keep everything together, but this particular battle does appear to be lost."
In November, The Norfolk Museums Service, specialists from the Science Museum and Norfolk Record Office said they were carrying out a detailed assessment of the museum’s pieces, with a view to keeping the most significant and historically important artefacts for the new premises.
A spokesperson told PrintWeek at the time that The Norfolk Museums Service will assist with the rehoming of surplus equipment and that "any items unwanted after attempts to rehome will be disposed of correctly and sensitively utilising the Museums Association’s own disposal toolkit, administered under their recognised code of practise”.
The John Jarrold Printing Museum opened in 1982 and has moved before within the Jarrold facilities. It is currently staffed by volunteers and opens on Wednesday mornings. It has an archive and extensive collection of equipment ranging from hand composing to phototypesetting, and from letterpress to litho and binding, much of it donated by other printing companies.
The collection includes what is thought to be the only surviving example of a Ratcliff direct lithographic press, dating from 1927 and donated by Curwen Studios in London.
It is currently unclear when buildng works will begin and the current museum will close. Jarrold & Sons was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.