Plans for more than 50 riverside retirement flats at the site of a former city centre telephone exchange site have been thrown out. 

The proposals, which were submitted by developers McCarthy Stone, would have seen a 51-home retirement living complex built in Westwick Street, next to the River Wensum. 

Norwich Evening News: The homes would have been built in Westwick StreetThe homes would have been built in Westwick Street (Image: Google Maps)

The properties would have been a mix of one-and-two-bedroom apartments set within landscaped outdoor gardens and 32 on-site car parking spaces.

But the city council has decided to reject the application on the basis that the site is a potential flood risk and the building would "appear as an overly dominant and intrusive form of development along the Norwich riverside".

Officers also argued the complex would represent an overdevelopment of the location and the provision of no affordable housing had not been "adequately justified".  

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Planning permission therefore has been rejected, subject to any appeal to the secretary of state for housing.

McCarthy Stone carried out a public consultation on the initial proposals in the autumn of 2022 and said 88pc of those who got involved expressed support for the plans.

Katie Fisher, divisional managing director, said last year: "Constructive feedback has been integral to informing our planning application and the supportive comments highlight the real need for this type of accommodation in the local area."

Norwich Evening News: The former, now demolished, telephone exchange which used to be in Norwich's Westwick StreetThe former, now demolished, telephone exchange which used to be in Norwich's Westwick Street (Image: Simon Finlay)

The site was previously home to the BT Telephone Exchange, which was demolished in 2020 when previous, now scrapped, plans to build 42 homes there were agreed.

The 1950s-built building had played a vital role in keeping people in Norwich connected.

All telephone traffic used to be carried over copper conductors in telephone cables.

But because copper wire is resistant to electrical signals, the power of the signals diminishes over distance.

To help make long-distance calls audible, amplification was needed – which is what happened at the Westwick Street telephone repeater station.

But the development of modern optic cables rendered such stations redundant.