City folk have expressed their "delight" over plans to regenerate a key part of the city centre. 

Whitbread, the parent company of Premier Inn, is hoping to redevelop its Nelson Hotel site off Prince of Wales Road. 

Norwich Evening News: The Premier Inn site in Prince of Wales RoadThe Premier Inn site in Prince of Wales Road (Image: Sonya Duncan)

The proposals would see the site - which consists of the hotel, the Nelson Table Table restaurant and several unused commercial units - demolished and replaced with a larger Premier Inn, new homes and purpose-built accommodation for students.

Those behind the project say they hope to create an "improved gateway" to Norwich from the rail station, including a public plaza.

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of the developmentAn artist's impression of the development (Image: Sheppard Robson)

Ben Price, city and county councillor for the area, said it was "great" to see the plans.

"The current site is run down and is also a magnet for anti-social behaviour," said the Green councillor.

"Opening up the riverway walk is a positive, but I am concerned about how the building work will affect the primary school children next door.

Norwich Evening News: Councillor Ben PriceCouncillor Ben Price (Image: Norwich Green Party)

"We need a development that is sympathetic to the character of Norwich and not just another boring generic new build.

"After all, it is the first building visitors see when they arrive by train. We need a landmark design."

The masterplan, designed by principal architect Sheppard Robson, also seeks to improve accessibility into the site from Prince of Wales Road and "enhance" the river walkway facing the rail station.

David Thomas, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, posted on X: "The first impression most visitors get of our city is a run down hotel and a vacant coffee shop, so this investment is welcome!

Norwich Evening News: Conservative candidate for Norwich South David ThomasConservative candidate for Norwich South David Thomas (Image: Norwich Conservatives)

"I encourage residents to respond to the consultation with their views on how to make redevelopment as good as possible."

The Nelson Hotel was opened in 1971 and with some of the surrounding commercial buildings now disused and vandalised, including the former Costa coffee shop, the site is looking rather tired.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said the Bid was "delighted" that Whitbread is "looking to redevelop one of the key gateways into the city centre and enhance the area surrounding the train station".

He continued: "We have been working with partners at Norwich City Council and Norfolk Chamber of Commerce over the long-term regeneration and development of the location.

Norwich Evening News: Stefan Gurney, executive director at Norwich BIDStefan Gurney, executive director at Norwich BID (Image: Hannah Hutchins)

"So the ability to leverage economic investment into the city centre is very positive for the Riverside and King Street areas.

"The site needs to balance the landscaping and community space with accessibility and put forward a masterplan that utilises the site for a new hotel, accommodation, and housing in keeping and appropriate to the character, scale and aspirations of the area and the wider city.

"It is encouraging that Whitbread is seeking community and business partner views, and we welcome the opportunity to add our voice to the proposals and the shape of this future development."

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of the view from the riverAn artist's impression of the view from the river (Image: Sheppard Robson)

The public can share their views on the plans via a public survey at

Public exhibitions will also be carried out on February 7 and 10 at the hotel.

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Richard Pearson, senior development manager for Whitbread, said: “I’m looking forward to showing our neighbours, stakeholders and Norwich residents our plans for the Norwich Nelson site.

"The location can deliver more than it does currently and we’re proposing to make a substantial investment in a new masterplan which will deliver a new, better Premier Inn hotel as well as other appropriate uses.

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of the river walkAn artist's impression of the river walk (Image: Sheppard Robson)

“The development gives us a wonderful opportunity to make more of the site and our architect and landscape architects have worked hard to create a development proposal that connects with its surroundings, is accessible and gives back to Norwich through an enhanced river walkway and improved views from Norwich Station towards the Castle and city centre."

'An increasingly dated feel'

The site is located opposite Norwich Rail Station alongside Foundry Bridge in Prince of Wales Road. 

It was formerly occupied by the Great Eastern Hotel, which was closed in 1961 and demolished two years later.

The Nelson Hotel was erected in its place and opened in March 1971.

Norwich Evening News: The Great Eastern Hotel in October 1963The Great Eastern Hotel in October 1963 (Image: Newsquest)

The developers behind the project say after more than 50 years the site "now presents an uninviting gateway to Norwich and is in need of significant regeneration to secure its long-term contribution to the city's future".

Issues with the building include poor energy efficiency and "an increasingly dated feel".

Norwich Evening News: The Great Eastern Hotel, pictured in 1859, next to Foundry Bridge and with a wherry outside the Parkers Seeds buildingThe Great Eastern Hotel, pictured in 1859, next to Foundry Bridge and with a wherry outside the Parkers Seeds building (Image: Chris Parker)


Some excellent news for the city centre has arrived after plans for a major revamp of the Hotel Nelson site were revealed.

Premier Inn's owner Whitbread has not only released its hopes to demolish and rebuild a modern hotel but to regenerate the increasingly shabby surrounding area.

Given that the site is directly opposite the rail station, it would appear that the project could provide a major boost for both the folk of Norwich and those visiting from further afield.

Norwich Evening News: The existing hotel would be demolished under the proposalsThe existing hotel would be demolished under the proposals (Image: Sonya Duncan)

Opening up the riverside area with a fresh and vibrant look could well be the final piece of the puzzle to regenerate that important area of the Fine City.

A public consultation process has been launched and, of course, careful scrutiny will be required to ensure that a suitable development is finalised before planning permission can be granted.

Yet it is clear that the area has seen better days, with unused commercial buildings looking increasingly derelict and the riverside frontage an unwelcoming, wasted asset.

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Breathing fresh life into the bottom of Prince of Wales Road would be a high-profile signal of commercial confidence in investing in Norwich and would also bolster the hotel offering for visitors to the city.

Norwich Evening News: The plans could breathe new life into the bottom of Prince of Wales RoadThe plans could breathe new life into the bottom of Prince of Wales Road (Image: Sonya Duncan)

There could well be a degree of corporate tactics involved too, with Travelodge building a 91-room hotel next to the market with hopes of welcoming its first guests in 2025.

For the Fine City to keep pace with regional rivals as a shopping and visitor destination, hotels are a crucial part of that, so these plans would appear to represent good news.

The mention of more student accommodation may raise eyebrows as to whether that is needed amid so much already being built in recent years, but private companies are not in the habit of funding major projects unless they are needed.