Marmite – an appropriate description for Anglia Square revamp

The Anglia Square plans include a 20-storey tower. Photo: Weston Homes

The Anglia Square plans include a 20-storey tower. Photo: Weston Homes - Credit: Weston Homes

'Marmite' is how the man who wants to revamp Norwich's Anglia Square described his own development when he spoke at the city council planning committee, where it was granted approval. But people will have a wait to find out whether they love or hate what Bob Weston is cooking up, because it could take five to eight years for the £271m scheme, which is planned in phases, to be built.

And that's if it happens at all, because the Secretary of State could yet decide it should be him, not the city council, giving the final say on whether permission is granted following a planning inquiry. I've mixed feelings over what are known as government call-ins. Surely the point of electing local councillors is for them to make the decisions on local matters? Why should an MP in Westminster get the final say to decide what happens in our city?

And yet, there's also the argument (and that's what Historic England has used to get the matter referred for a potential call-in) that when an application goes against national policy in important ways, or is nationally significant, then the matter must go higher. There's no doubt the Anglia Square development will cause 'harm' to other historic buildings. Council officers do not deny that. But they say the economic and social benefits for the city outweigh it.

To run with Mr Weston's analogy of his scheme being like Marmite, their argument to councillors was essentially, you'd best eat this, even though you won't like some of it, because it will be good for you in the end.

There were hundreds who disagreed and there were eloquent and impassioned arguments from some of those objectors in the council chamber. There were also searching questions from members of the planning committee over the scheme – particularly focused on the levels of affordable housing and why the scheme is seeking exemption from the community infrastructure levy, which is essentially a tax on developers.

It sticks in the throat for some that public subsidy, in the form of the housing infrastructure money, is to be used to help get the Anglia Square development started, yet the landowner Columbia Threadneedle is a huge global asset management company. Few would argue that the development is long overdue, but many will remain against what is likely to happen there. There'll always be many people who do not like Marmite.