Jigsaw of Norwich’s future takes shape

A blueprint which will decide where almost 3,500 homes could be built in Norwich will move closer to being adopted this week - but people across the city have been asked to say whether they agree with where development is earmarked to happen.

Norwich City Council is drawing up a framework which allocates scores of sites for future house building and possible business locations which would create new jobs.

That provides a glimpse into what the city could look like a decade from now, with sites on the shortlist including at least 1,200 new homes at Bowthorpe, 600 near Whitlingham and 150 at the city's waterworks site.

While planning permission would need to obtained for the majority of sites, if a site does make the final framework, it does give developers the confidence to put forward proposals in the knowledge the city council will look favourably upon that use for the land.

Among the major sites short-listed for housing are Three Score in Bowthorpe, where at least 1,200 new homes could be permitted, Norwich Community Hospital, off Bowthorpe Road, where some 120 homes could be built, at least 120 homes at Havers Road in Mile Cross and 150 homes at the Heigham Water Treatment Works off Waterworks Road.

The Deal Ground site at Whitlingham is also on the shortlist for some 600 homes, along with offices and shops.

Entrepreneur Andre Serruys recently announced he was keen to develop that site, unveiling proposals for a �100m scheme complete with marina, while another site he owns - the former Lakenham Sports and Leisure Centre - which he also wants to develop is also on the list for around 85 homes.

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Land at Rose Lane is also on the list for offices, along with at least 300 homes, some leisure use and shops.

Another major change could see a facelift for St Stephen's Street, with the St Stephen's Towers, once home to Norwich Union, potentially demolished to help make way for 250 homes, offices, new shops and underground car parking.

Westlegate Tower could follow suit, with a suggestion that new shops, offices and flats could be provided there.

The Royal Mail Centre in Thorpe Road could also be redeveloped to provide about 200 homes and offices, while the former Blackdale School Site in Earlham is earmarked for an extension of the University of East Anglia campus.

The sites have all been put forward after developers, agents, community groups and the public were invited, in 2009, to suggest sites where houses could be built, or businesses based.

Following consultation between November 2009 and February last year, which yielded about 400 responses, those suggestions have been whittled down to 80 sites.

Those sites have been short-listed to be included in what is known as the Site Allocations plan, based on suitability, sustainability and availability.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'This is a bit of future-gazing and what we are looking at is options for the way the city looks and how it will develop over time.

'Each of these suggested sites can be seen as smaller pieces of a bigger jigsaw and this is is an opportunity for the city and the city council to see how all the pieces fit together.'

'Some of the sites are quite small, but some, such as Three Score and St Stephen's are massive projects and they all make up the fabric of the city.'

Not all of the sites originally put forward have made it onto the final short-list.

One of the suggested sites which has been rejected is land at Eaton Golf Club. The club suggested part of the club's site could be used for housing.

But officers said the loss of green space and publicly accessible space for recreation is not justified and it is a county wildlife trust site.

Also ditched are four housing schemes close to Norwich Cathedral, which had been proposed by the cathedral and LSI Architects.

Officers have rejected those - at Gooseberry Gardens, between Hooks Walk and Ferry Lane and on land at the back of The Close - saying they would affect the setting and views of the cathedral and would not fit into an area with listed buildings.

A suggestion by Bartram Mowers and The Landscape Partnership that land to the west of Bluebell Road could be used for housing was also rejected, with officers concerned at the loss of so much green open space.

Council officers stress that including a site in the document does not mean the development will happen and that planning permission would still need to be obtained before schemes went ahead.

But a report which will come before the city council cabinet on Wednesday also states: 'However, it does provide an indication that the council is favouring the development of the site and it may be a material consideration to the determination of planning applications.'

Norwich City Council's cabinet will meet on Wednesday where officers are recommending they give the go-ahead for consultation over the sites.

That will last for eight weeks and is due to start next month. After that the council will consider what has been said a produce a draft plan, which the public will get another chance to comment on before it goes to the Secretary of State for public examination.

If given the okay, it would be adopted in late 2012 and would then be used as a blueprint for future development in the city.

It would also be a 'shopping window' for developers, who would be able to see if their schemes stood a chance of success.

• To see the full list of sites visit www.norwich.gov.uk/webapps/atoz/service_page.asp?id=1708

• Are you looking for a new home? Make sure you get the Evening News on Thursdays for our Homes 24 section and visit the website at www.homes24.co.uk