May 22 2013 Latest news:
Tom Bristow, Reporter
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
A bid to save one of Norwich’s most historic homes and revamp a derelict area of the river has been scuppered by planning rules.
The Norwich Preservation Trust hoped to save the former home of the Dukes of Norfolk, Howard House, near Dragon Hall on King Street, by converting it into homes.
Under the plans, Howard House would be given to the trust by the administrators, who have held the house and land around it – St Anne’s Wharf – since City Living Developments, who owned it, collapsed.
But to convert Howard House, the trust needed a strip of land on King Street to provide parking and room for bins.
It is understood that when Norwich City Council was asked if the trust could use the extra land, planners said it would affect the entire planning application for the area, which includes the redevelopment of St Anne’s Wharf.
Without the planning application, the value of the land, which the administrators want to sell, would collapse, meaning the site remains in a two-decade long deadlock.
Cabinet member for planning at the city council, Bert Bremner, who is also a member of the trust, said there was little the council could do and blamed the lack of progress on the property market.
He said: “The value of the land has collapsed compared with the price originally paid.
“We think there is a real opportunity to get the large St Anne’s Wharf site and Howard House developed.
“It will be great to get Howard House finally brought back to its true glory, but the city has to think far bigger than one wonderful building and get the most benefit for homes and jobs for the city, and get Howard House sorted at the same time.”
The planning permission proposed 437 apartments on the five-acre site between King Street and the River Wensum.
Vicky Manthorpe from civic watchdog the Norwich Society described the deadlock as “one of the biggest heritage scandals in Norwich for the last two decades”.
She said: “Despite many pleas by the Norwich Society to preserve and restore Howard House, the city council has always refused to issue either repair orders or a compulsory purchase order to the successive owners.”
But Mr Bremner said compulsory purchase orders were far too expensive for the council to issue.
Ms Manthorpe said the society was frustrated because the extra land on King Street needed for parking and bins was included in an earlier site boundary for Howard House.
She said: “We would argue that a future developer is highly unlikely to proceed on the basis of the existing plan and permissions – following changes in the city housing market the mix of housing in the present plan is completely out of date.
“Secondly, it would be a distinct financial benefit to any development company to have Howard House removed from its responsibility.”
Administrators Begbies Traynor declined to comment.