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Sold! Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre gets a buyer

Anglia Square, Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Anglia Square, Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre has been sold, with the new owners pledging they will invest to make the complex a success.

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The shopping centre has been bought by international investment manager Threadneedle Investments, ending months of speculation.

The deal prompted Brenda Arthur, the leader of Norwich City Council, to hail the sale as “a vote of confidence in the future of Norwich”.

The new owners were tight-lipped about how much they had paid for the 1960s centre, or how much they were prepared to invest in its future.

But they insisted they were committed to the square’s success and would be reviewing investment opportunities in the months ahead to attract more businesses and shoppers to the centre.

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However, it is understood planning permission secured for the square on behalf of its previous owners is unlikely to be pursued.

Instead, the new owners look likely to come up with their own vision for Anglia Square’s future, following consultation.

Jeremy Collin, property asset manager at Threadneedle Investments, said: “We are extremely pleased to be the new owners of Anglia Square.

“We believe the shopping centre has considerable potential and we are excited about creating a vibrant business environment for existing tenants and attracting new occupiers to the centre to offer a better retail experience for the local community.

“Over the coming months, and in consultation with key stakeholders, we will be looking closely at how we can secure a commercially viable future for Anglia Square and make it an attractive place to visit, do business and shop.

“We will communicate with local businesses and people before undertaking any major work to the centre. In the meantime, it is business as usual at Anglia Square.”

Threadneedle Investments, which has been keeping tabs on Anglia Square since the mid 2000s, owns 35 retail properties across the country, including Bethal Square in Brecon and Pavilion Shopping Centre in Tonbridge.

Last month, the Norwich Evening News reported how the sale was on the cards, after Northern Ireland-based BTW Shiells, which was managing the square, wrote to businesses to assure them the new owners would be committed to its future.

A major revamp of Anglia Square has been in the pipeline for years, but progress on the facelift was badly hampered because of the recession.

It meant the square ended up in the hands of the National Asset Management Company - the body created by the Irish government in 2009 in response to the Irish financial crisis. The London-based new owners bought it from that agency.

The new owners are keen to stress it is “business as usual” while consideration is given to how to improve the square.

But it looks unlikely that planning permission secured on behalf of the previous owners will go forward in that form.

Those plans, agreed by Norwich City Council, were for 174 new homes, a public square, new shops, restaurants, cafes and a healthcare centre, while Gildengate House, the office block over the entrance to the car park, would have been updated to provide modern offices.

The plans included a 7,792 square metre foodstore, and it emerged last year that Tesco had been involved in negotiations to take on that store.

A spokesman for Threadneedle Investments said the new owners were “very much” open to talks with leading retailers.

Norwich City Council leader Ms Arthur said: “Threadneedle’s investment in Anglia Square is a vote of confidence in the future of Norwich.

“Threadneedle is a major property investor with the ability to improve the existing shopping centre and provide jobs for the city.

“I look forward to the council working closely with Threadneedle to deliver this regeneration, realising the benefits for the wider area.”

Trevor Wicks, who runs the Hollywood Cinema in Anglia Square, said it was still early days, but that he was optimistic over what the new owners had said so far.

He said: “We only found out yesterday, so at the moment it doesn’t mean much to us other than it has been sold.

“We will wait to meet up with the new owners and see what sort of plans they have. Hopefully we will be able to talk to them about the sort of ideas we have.”

Mr Wicks added that, with Anglia Square at close to 100pc occupancy, the future was bright for the shopping centre, but that some investment would help.

He said: “Some of the old office buildings could do with something happening to them. There has been talk that some of them could become student accommodation and that would be good. It would be nice to have people living at the site.

“It’s all early days but it is reassuring that the sale has now happened and we could sit down to discuss things. There is a lot of potential here.”

• What would you like to see happen at Anglia Square? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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