A 'radical rethink' is needed for the next bid to redevelop Norwich's Anglia Square shopping centre, according to heritage organisations.

Historic England, SAVE Britain's Heritage and the Norwich Society had all been against the plans Weston Homes put forward for the Norwich site - which were dramatically cancelled last week.

Norwich Evening News: Weston Homes' plans for Anglia Square have been scrappedWeston Homes' plans for Anglia Square have been scrapped (Image: Weston Homes)

They had objected to the scale and massing of the development including, in the original plans, the controversial 20-storey tower - which was abandoned for the second application.

Norwich Evening News: The original Anglia Square plans included a 20-storey towerThe original Anglia Square plans included a 20-storey tower (Image: Weston Homes)

In cancelling the project, granted planning permission by Norwich City Council last year, Weston Homes gave seven reasons for pulling the plug.

They said the development was no longer viable, citing inflation, delays to securing planning permission, changes following the Covid pandemic, government policy changes and the issue of nutrient neutrality, which has made large scale housing projects more complex.

Weston Homes also said the delay in getting planning permission meant it would not get the full £15m which had been offered by government agency Homes England to help get existing buildings demolished.

Norwich Evening News: Sovereign House at Anglia Square would need to be demolishedSovereign House at Anglia Square would need to be demolished (Image: Archant Norfolk 2018)

READ MORE: Anglia Square owners insist site has 'significant potential'

AN ALTERNATIVE WAY FORWARD?

But heritage organisations said the abandonment presented an opportunity for a new scheme to come forward.

A Historic England spokesman said: "We know the regeneration of Norwich is an important objective for the city council and believe this can be achieved at Anglia Square in a way which provides much-needed housing and other facilities, while also responding to, and using, Norwich's exceptional historic character."

Norwich Evening News: Ash Sakula's vision for Anglia SquareAsh Sakula's vision for Anglia Square (Image: Ash Sakula Architects)

During the 2020 public inquiry into the original Anglia Square plans, Historic England and SAVE Britain's Heritage presented work commissioned from Ash Sakula Architects for a different approach.

It included just under 600 homes, the bulk of them at street level, along with a sky garden, with views over the city.

However, at the public inquiry, Historic England representatives conceded the scheme was not "viable in the present circumstances", but that it should give "serious pause for thought".

Norwich Evening News: Anglia Square in NorwichAnglia Square in Norwich (Image: Newsquest)

But a spokesman said: "This vision showed it is possible to create a contemporary development, informed by the historic layout and scale of the area, that reconnects Anglia Square with its surrounding neighbourhoods and fulfills the needs of local people.

"We believe it is possible to create a development that gives local people the facilities they need, and which also fits with the historic setting of the city."

Norwich Evening News: Anglia Square in NorwichAnglia Square in Norwich (Image: Archant Norfolk 2018)CALL FOR 'RADICAL RETHINK'

David Taylor, honorary secretary of civic watchdog The Norwich Society, said: "Now is the time for a radical rethink about the potential that Anglia Square holds. One that perhaps tends to be more realistic about what is achievable here.

"And one that places the community’s ambitions at the heart of any redesign process. If substantial public subsidy is indeed the key to unlocking the site’s potential, then this public interest has to be placed front and centre in the next stage of this saga."

Norwich Evening News: Henrietta Billings, from SAVE Britain's HeritageHenrietta Billings, from SAVE Britain's Heritage (Image: SAVE Britain's Heritage)

COULD AWARD-WINNING SITE SERVE AS TEMPLATE?

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage, said Norwich's RIBA-award winning Goldsmith Street development could point to a way forward.

She said: "The departure of Weston Homes is an opportunity for a once-in-a-generation review of the redevelopment of this prominent site that has partly blighted this area of the city centre conservation area for years. 

"The world has changed since the planning application was submitted in terms of new and increasingly urgent local and national economic and environmental pressures. A fresh approach is required.

Norwich Evening News: Goldsmith Street in NorwichGoldsmith Street in Norwich

"We call on Norwich City Council – which has a fine track record in developing schemes such as Goldsmith Street – to take a lead and rethink the future development options and alternative partners for this site."

She said the Ash Sakula vision could serve as "an ideal starting point" for new plans.

Norwich Evening News: Norwich City Council leader Mike StonardNorwich City Council leader Mike Stonard (Image: Archant)

Norwich City Council leader Mike Stonard previously said the cancellation of the plans was a "terrible blow" for the city, while site owners Columbia Threadneedle insisted the site had "significant potential".