Anglia Square is a unique and vibrant part of our city.

Many people use it for shopping and for community, and love it. Many people also want to see the area redeveloped.

The buildings are falling down, there’s a limited lifespan for Sovereign House and Gildengate House, businesses there are suffering from leaking roofs and struggling with insurance. People also want to see housing, especially the social and truly affordable housing we most need in the city centre. 

Sadly, the story of Anglia Square so far has involved developers such as Weston Homes taking the city council for a ride, and adding to the local area’s problems in the process.

When the developers submitted their plans for redevelopment last year, local councillors including myself questioned whether the plans were viable, let alone represented what the city needs.

The just over 1,000 flats that Weston proposed for the site were poor-quality, half with windows on just one side, being labelled “rabbit hutches” by some. They were so bad, in fact, that had they gone ahead, they would have fallen foul of new regulations on living space, which meant Weston Homes had to change their plans after getting planning approval.

I and my Green Party colleagues also had questions about whether Weston Homes would stick with the project in economically uncertain times.

When local residents asked me when I thought Weston Homes would start work after they gained planning permission last April, I would respond that I thought the developers may well pull out, as economic circumstances would make it adverse for them to start development now.

The fact that these concerns came true makes it all the more imperative that the local council now works to ensure stability and certainty for the future of Anglia Square.

Up until now, the Labour-led council, very cosy with Bob Weston and his company, have gone along with whatever the developers have proposed, whether or not those proposals work for the local area or are realistic.

Meanwhile the businesses who make Anglia Square the place it is have suffered from the resulting uncertainty, with many forced to close in recent years and months.

By becoming so reliant on Weston Homes, furthermore, the council has neglected to consider other options for the site, including a council-led development.

Such a development would need to respect the local area, retaining the sense of community that many people value about Anglia Square, and making sure social and truly affordable housing is available.

Because a public body such as the city council, unlike a private company, would not have to seek profits from a development, the viability of the site would be much greater for them, even with the high costs of demolition. With no private sector profit, the city would still gain from additional housing and local jobs.

And unlike Weston Homes, the council would not lobby for multi-million pound tax-breaks that would take money out of the local area. 

This week, Green Party councillors are proposing a motion to the city council calling for them to immediately explore options for purchasing Anglia Square, so that elected representatives can set a clear and certain direction for the future of this site. 

Unfortunately, the way that the Labour administration has approached Anglia Square does not offer much hope.

The current council leader, Cllr Mike Stonard, has repeatedly refused to disclose information about meetings he had with Weston Homes prior to awarding the developer a massive tax-break.

He has also repeatedly referred to Anglia Square as “a blight on the city”, and seems to have nothing positive to say about the local community, which is at best condescending to the many people who work in and love Anglia Square and its surroundings.

If we are going to have a future for Anglia Square, it has to be one that is accountable, transparent, and optimistic, not tied to the interests of a single powerful and unreliable developer.

Cllr Jamie Osborn is a Green Party city councillor and county councillor for Mancroft Ward