Norwich Society's 'relief' over changes to Anglia Square plans
- Credit: Denise Bradley
The Norwich Society has welcomed changes made to the Anglia Square redevelopment plan, in a significant boost for the scheme, which it had previously opposed.
The original proposals for the site had divided opinion, especially over the scale of the development - and in particular a 20-storey tower block. The scheme also included more than 1,200 new homes, a hotel, cinema, car parks and new shops.
The Norwich Society had stated its opposition to that plan, which was later refused permission by the then-secretary of state Robert Jenrick.
Developers Weston Homes and site owners Columbia Threadneedle decided not to pursue a challenge to that decision and instead pledged to go back to the drawing board.
Although subject to change, the new plan cuts the number of car parking spaces and homes from 1,500 to just 400 and 1,200 to 1,100 respectively. It also does not feature the tower block.
In addition, the originally planned 11,000sqm non-residential retail, cinema and office space has been slimmed down, with no cinema and just 4,000sqm in the new plans.
Other features of the updated plans include a new residents' hub, a north-south cycle route, public toilets and 4.5 acres of public green space.
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Following consultation with locals, and other relevant parties, Weston Homes intend to submit the new plans in 2022. If approved, they hope to start construction later in 2022, with an expected completion date of 2033.
Several consultation events on the revised proposals have been held in recent weeks. In its statement responding to the new plans, the Norwich Society said: “It is of course fair to say that, in comparison to the appeal scheme, there is much in the emerging designs which represent a substantial step in the right direction."
It identified, with "a profound sense of relief" several areas of improvement to the scheme, including “the deletion of the tower block and all of the substantial visual intrusions that would have resulted from it".
It also welcomed the scaling back of retail and leisure elements of the project. "Post-Covid, the emphasis will surely now shift back to restoring the health of the city centre which is the proper location for these important activities," it added.
Other improvements it noted included a reduction in the number of car parking spaces and the abandonment of "extremely poor residential layouts".
However, the Society still had some reservations. On the number of houses which could go up as part of the new plans, it said there were “no grounds for accepting 1,100 homes as the starting point for negotiations”.
It also expressed concern about the “potentially cavernous effects” of a planned row of eight-storey blocks.
However, the Society said it was “now possible to conceive of a potentially successful outcome to this process, something which was invisible two years back”.
Chairman Michael Jordan added: “We’d all have our part to play if we end up with another impasse, and another decade or more of nothing happening, so we would like to see it developed.”
Mr Jordan said that the talks with local traders and residents, convened by facilitator Design South East, had made “very clear that there’s a fondness for Anglia Square as is, and a desire to see it’s best features, its affordability for local people, retained in a new development, which is often lost when a new development comes forward.”
He added: “As always in these developments it’s an exercise in trying to reconcile the desire to maximise the gain from the site, as opposed to all the other considerations.
“We think that a more modest residential content would still be viable, and would be for the better, and we hope to persuade the city council and others in the course of the next couple of months that that’s indeed right.”
A spokesperson for Weston Homes said that they would not be commenting publicly on the revised plans until the consultation is complete.