�122m development on its way to Norwich?

Sarah HallAmbitious plans to breathe new life into a decaying part of Norwich have moved a decisive step forward after the site's owners started action to clear the site for development.Sarah Hall

Ambitious plans to breathe new life into a decaying part of Norwich have moved a decisive step forward after the site's owners started action to clear the site for development.

It was revealed last year that a new Asda supermarket would be the flagship store in the �122m Harford Place development in Hall Road, which would also include new homes, shops and leisure facilities - but concerns were raised the economic downturn could throw a spanner in the works.

However, developer Targetfollow this week started action to get the site ready for development and said building work could start by the end of this year.

Ian Fox, joint managing director at Targetfollow, said: 'It is a positive step forward. However, there are many hurdles still to get through before we can give clarity as to when the development will be completed.

'We need to get vacant premises in order to do the necessary work ahead of the redevelopment. We hope that the redevelopment will happen late this year or early next year.'

The aim is for the new development to include shops, restaurants, caf�s, a food store, leisure accommodation, offices, homes and a hotel, together with parking.

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The company, based in Riverside Road, has served notice on a group of artists who currently rent the old Bally shoe factory for their studios, saying they need to be out by June to allow redevelopment to take place.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, welcomed the news that development could start this year.

'It's excellent news because it boosts the economy and creates new jobs in the city at a crucial time. It will also help build the confidence of other people thinking about investing in the city,' he said.

Targetfollow had allowed the artists to use the factory and it was always understood it was a temporary arrangement ahead of the planned transformation of the area.

A spokesman for Targetfollow said: 'Following its acquisition of the former Bally shoe factory in Hall Road, Targetfollow allowed the office space within the factory to be converted into artist studios, something which Norwich arts community has lacked.

'The use of the premises for this purpose was always on the basis that it was a temporary arrangement, prior to redevelopment of the site.

'The artists have all known this and as such agreed occupation by way of a 'Tenancy at Will'. This allows Targetfollow to obtain vacant possession with immediate effect.

'Targetfollow now needs to progress the development and therefore gain vacant possession of the entire site. Notice was served to the artists on May 14 and they were given until June 8 to vacate as the group need to carry out preliminary works and security, health and safety and general flexibility does not allow for the property to be occupied during this process.

'There are Open Studios during the three weekends starting May 22 - June 6, as part of the Norwich and Norfolk Festival, and Targetfollow was always willing to ensure that tenants had enough time to vacate after the final Open Studio weekend.

'At the request of tenants, and in view of the Open Studios event, Targetfollow has now agreed to extend the vacation period until 10pm on Sunday, June 13.

'News of the factory closure has generally been taken very well by the artist tenants, many of whom have expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Targetfollow for establishing a vibrant arts community at the factory and in turn supporting the arts.'

The artists who use the studios have turned this year's Norfolk Open Studios exhibition, which opened in the factory at the weekend, into their final exhibition.

More than 20 Norfolk artists and groups are taking part in the exhibition, which will run for the next two weekends from 10am until 4pm.

Rupert Mallin, one of the artists, said: 'It is a shame because there's very little else out there where artists can show their work. A lot of us will be going into sheds or garages. The exhibition will be very much a send off to our time using the old factory.'

Anyone who can offer alternative venues to the artists should call Mr Mallin on 07775 870392 or email rupertmallin@supanet.com

Have you got a story about a development in Norwich? Contact Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk