Fears of missing out on millions in community cash from the redevelopment of Anglia Square have been reignited, with accusations that council policies were brought in to help the site's developer.

Opposition councillors at City Hall have once again raised concerns that Weston Homes, the company behind the multi-million pound revamp of the city shopping area, will try to avoid paying a community infrastructure levy (CIL). 

Since 2013, the Labour-led authority has imposed the levy on many construction projects, using the funds for transport schemes, green infrastructure, schools and community facilities. 

Norwich Evening News: A concept image of plans for Norwich's Anglia SquareA concept image of plans for Norwich's Anglia Square (Image: Weston Homes)

A previous planning application for the site, which was ultimately turned down, had CIL set at £8.8m.

But the developer applied for an exemption, saying the levy would make the scheme unviable.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Green councillor Jamie Osborn questioned if it would be fair for Weston Homes to apply for an exemption, especially when the company’s pre-tax profits last year “increased six-fold".  

He added: “To members of the public it could seem like the CIL exemption policy was introduced specifically for the benefit of Weston Homes and that impression would seem to be reinforced given that they are the only developer to have indicated that they want to apply for it. 

“Do you think that the policy is sound given that no other developer seems to be interested?” 

Norwich Evening News: Jamie OsbornJamie Osborn

READ MORE: Fears that 'significant proportion' of Anglia Square shops would not return

Mike Stonard, cabinet member for inclusive and sustainable growth, said the exemption policy, which was introduced by the council in November 2018 -just one month before the authority's planning committee approved the original plans - was for exceptional circumstances.

While Mr Stonard said Weston Homes had "indicated" they planned to apply for the relief, he insisted there is a rigorous exemption process, including a viability assessment carried out by an independent person.

It must also demonstrate benefits for the wider community, including the delivery of affordable homes and community facilities.

Norwich Evening News: Mike Stonard, Norwich City Council cabinet member for sustainable development.

Mr Stonard also denied that the policy was introduced just to support Weston Homes. 

He said: “I do not accept your logic that because they are the only developer to have indicated that they want to apply for the exemption it does not logically follow that the policy was designed for them. 

“The policy is sound and we will look at every case on an individual basis on its own merits.”  

Decision approaching

Weston Homes said it would not be able to comment on the CIL speculation until a decision on fresh plans is made by the city council's planning committee, which a spokesman said is currently set for April 27.

The latest proposals are for up to 1,100 homes, plus retail and commercial space, including 14 buildings, ranging from three to eight storeys in height. 

A controversial 20-storey tower, which proved so divisive in the initial application, has been ditched and the amount of car parking has been reduced.

Weston Homes lodged the new proposals for the long-running planning saga last April, after the government had overturned previous approvals amid significant opposition.