Bob Weston, chairman and managing director of Weston Homes, has written an open letter about the decision to withdraw plans for 1,100 homes to be built at Anglia Square.

Mr Weston has written in response to a recent opinion column from Green councillor Jamie Osborn criticising the approach of Weston and Norwich City Council.

I find it deeply offensive, on behalf of Weston Homes, that councillor Osborn has made various untrue statements in his article including describing Weston Homes as an unreliable developer.

He also strongly implied corruption between Weston Homes, [city council leader] Mike Stonard and the Labour councillors in relation to the decision to grant Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) exception for the Anglia Square development. His allegations are without foundation and offensive.

Seven years ago, the government, Homes England, senior officers from Norwich City Council and councillors from the Labour Party all acknowledged, totally independently of Weston Homes, that the financial viability of redeveloping the Anglia Square site was extremely marginal and that any developer would need to have funding and tax exemption support to make any sort of redevelopment financially viable.

Norwich Evening News: An artist's impression of how the Anglia Square revamp would have lookedAn artist's impression of how the Anglia Square revamp would have looked (Image: Weston Homes)

Far from “taking the city council for a ride” as councillor Osborn claims, it is Weston Homes that has had to write off a £7.5m loss in its report and accounts due to the costs spent on the design, redesign and community consultation over the last seven years of delays during the planning process regarding the redevelopment of Anglia Square.

Councillor Osborn’s comments in his article indicate a lack of understanding of the relevant financial matters and the challenges involved. Weston Homes' key interest was to make a substantial investment into Norwich City centre, build homes for affordable housing and market sale, and create new amenities for the city and generate jobs and economic growth.

The redevelopment would have generated circa 2,211 direct construction jobs in the city of Norwich, another circa 288 jobs in the completed retail and commercial premises, with the residents of the new housing calculated to spend up to £36.4m per annum in the local economy. None of this will now happen.

Norwich Evening News: Bob Weston, chairman and managing director of Weston HomesBob Weston, chairman and managing director of Weston Homes (Image: Weston Homes)

Throughout the entire planning process for Anglia Square, [former city council leader] Alan Walters, councillor Mike Stonard and his Labour councillor colleagues worked tirelessly to try and make the project happen because the Labour administration understands that good private-public partnerships create inward investment, employment and spending in the local economy.

Councillor Stonard and Weston Homes had to deal with the challenges of seven key issues which led to delays in the Anglia Square scheme, which together resulted in very considerable additional costs and led to the cancellation of the project because it was no longer financially viable.

The first is the planning delays and related costs due to national government intervention in the proposed scheme. The second is the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic which had a major impact on the viability of the proposed office and retail space within the scheme.

The third is the further delays which arose as a result of the Nutrient Neutrality directive from Natural England. The fourth is the reduction in access to the full Marginal Viability Funding from Homes England’s Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Norwich Evening News: Green county and city councillor Jamie OsbornGreen county and city councillor Jamie Osborn (Image: Submitted)

The fifth has been the huge build cost inflation which has impacted the calculated construction costs of the site and has made the scheme’s viability even more marginal over the last 18 months.

READ MORE: City Hall set to ask for government funding to purchase Anglia Square

The sixth is the issues over the CIL exemption and the seventh is the design guidelines in the Government’s Building Safety Act (2022) which resulted in the loss of another 100 homes within the proposed scheme.

The steadfast opposition of councillor Osborn in my opinion makes him a major contributor to the scheme’s failure and the loss of inward investment, amenities and new jobs for Norwich.

Another key contributor to the failure of the redevelopment of Anglia Square is Robert Jenrick, who when housing minister, decided to call in and overturn the local planning consent and the inspector’s recommendation to approve.

Norwich Evening News: Plans for the rebuild of Anglia Square collapsed in FebruaryPlans for the rebuild of Anglia Square collapsed in February (Image: Denise Bradley/Newsquest)

Mr Jenrick underlines the political stance of the current Conservative government which seems to have no understanding of the importance of supporting the housebuilding industry and regional city growth in the UK.

READ MORE: Critics accused of 'cynical last dig' at Anglia Square developers

At the forthcoming general election, the politicians of Norwich will have to face their electorate.

In my view, the local Labour party councillors worked extremely hard to make Anglia Square viable.

In contrast, I believe that the Conservative and Green parties have let down the people of Norwich.