Anglia Square: “We’re in limbo” shopping centre traders face the future with trepidation

Photo essay - Anglia Square.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Photo essay - Anglia Square.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Traders in Anglia Square say a cloud of uncertainty hovers over the area's multimillion pound revamp, as they wait to see the impact it will have on their livelihoods.

Keith Wiggett, of Wiggy's in Anglia Square. Picture; Staff

Keith Wiggett, of Wiggy's in Anglia Square. Picture; Staff - Credit: Archant

After years of declining footfall and the closure of many big-name shops, the mood among traders who have been in Anglia Square for years is muted.

We spoke to several about their hopes - and fears - for the future, and the majority said while investment in the area was good, whether the planned development was appropriate remained to be seen.

Sonya Pusey, the manager of Here Be Dragons, which has been in the square for 10 years, said over the past decade the business had seen a decline in footfall.

She said: 'The area has lost its sense of community, we used to have things going on in the square but not anymore.

Ordon Kasera, of Fashion Talk which opened in Anglia Square in April 2018. Picture: Archant

Ordon Kasera, of Fashion Talk which opened in Anglia Square in April 2018. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

'We've got mixed feelings about [the redevelopment] because it will be nice to see Anglia Square upgraded but I can't see how a multi-storey is going to help traders.'

Ms Pusey also said she had concerns about what the construction work would do for trade.

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She said: 'If Anglia Square closes, it's not going to bring people down here.

'We feel a bit left out because we have customers come in and say what is happening and my answer is to say look in the newspaper, we don't get told anything.'

Gayle Cross, the owner of Marmalade's Children's Clothing in Anglia Square. Picture: Archant

Gayle Cross, the owner of Marmalade's Children's Clothing in Anglia Square. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Jamie Bone, the director of Anglia Square Cars, which has been based in the centre of the shopping complex for eight years, echoed Ms Pusey's uncertainty.

He said while the business was ticking over, he was concerned the news of the potential redevelopment was putting people off visiting the area.

He said: 'We're not doing fantastically but we're not doing badly either.

'Talk of the redevelopment probably puts people off [coming down here] at the moment but there's nothing we can do about it.

'When, if, it does happen we would still be in the area, we'll just be relocated but until we really know it's a grey area.'

Mr Bone added that while investment in the area was positive, the lack of information available was a source of frustration.

He said: 'It chops and changes every month and we feel left out of the loop.

'Everyone is just a bit frustrated - the manager tries to keep us as informed as they can... But we're just in limbo.

'I do think redevelopment will be good, I'd say it's something that's overdue, but I don't necessary think a 20-storey tower block is a good thing.

'It's not what the people living around here necessary want.'

Keith Wiggett, the manager of Wiggy's Independent Trading Co, which has been in the square for six years, painted a bleak picture. He said: 'When I first came here the car park was open, then it was closed and that took 15pc to 20pc of the trade.

'It's quite sad, I'm a Norwich boy and I've lived in Norwich all my life. Thirty years ago this area was thriving but even on a Saturday there is nobody here, you won't believe how bad it is.

'They have been talking about rumours for the last 30 years, is it a smoke screen, we don't know whether it will happen. We don't know. I don't really pay much attention to it, we've heard it so many times before.'

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Two new businesses in the area, Marmalade's Children's shop, which specialises in pre-owned children's clothing, and Fashion Talk, an African clothing store, said business had been good since moving in less than a year ago.

Gayle Cross, the owner of Marmalade's Children's shop, which relocated from Halesworth, in Suffolk, to Anglia Square in September, said: 'We had heard rumours of the redevelopment for five or six years and took it with a pinch of salt.

'When we thought about moving to Norwich we thought about [the city centre] but the whole point of the shop is that it's pre-owned.

'The community here is fantastic, it's absolutely brilliant, the only problem is it's an eye sore.'

Ordon Kasera, who opened Fashion Talk in April last year, said: 'I can't complain, business isn't bad. I was worried because [African fashion] is a new thing in Norfolk, and I didn't know if people were going to like it but 70pc of my customers are British, so I'm happy.'

On the redevelopment he added: 'It should be better for the shops, it's a good thing, it's change.'

Plans to redevelop Anglia Square

In its £271m revamp of Anglia Square, developer Weston Homes, with investment firm Columbia Threadneedle, has applied to demolish the shopping centre, along with the neighbouring Sovereign House.

The buildings would be replaced with new blocks, including 1,234 new homes, a leisure quarter with a cinema, car parks, a 200-bed hotel, the 20-storey tower block and a new home for Surrey Chapel.

In total, 939 comments were received on the original proposals and revised plans - which led to the tower's height being cut from 25 storeys to 20 storeys.

Of those who submitted comments during the planning process, 767 objected to the plans and 120 supported them.

In December, members of Norwich City Council's planning committee granted the scheme permission by seven votes to five.

But objectors, including Historic England, triggered a bid to get the issue called in by the government and communities secretary James Brokenshire.