New flats could be created at eyesore site vacant for 20 years

The former Eastern Electricity Board site at Duke's Wharf in Norwich.

The former Eastern Electricity Board site at Duke's Wharf in Norwich. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

More than a 120 new flats could be created at an eyesore site in the heart of Norwich, which has stood empty for more than 20 years.

London-based Bricks Group is about to lodge plans to redevelop the former Eastern Electricity Board site at Duke's Wharf.

The site, off Duke Street, has been vacant, except for use as a car park, since 1999.

Former Eastern Electricity Board site in Duke Street, Norwich.

The former Eastern Electricity Board site has been vacant, except for use as a car park, since 1999. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

The developers, who hope to get an application lodged with Norwich City Council this month, have begun consultation over their plans.

They say the redevelopment would provide a combination of "modern stylish residential apartments, sitting along side the luxury student accommodation".

The student flats would be managed by London-based true Student, which also provides accommodation in cities such as Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham.

The site would also include a riverside cafe, a gym, meeting, working and leisure spaces.

The developers, on the consultation website at www.norwichdukeswharf.co.uk state: "The development has been designed to meet the ambitions of young professionals and other like-minded individuals sharing the benefits of greater choice and flexibility whilst renting."

There have been various attempts to redevelop the site. In 2014, Norwich City Council granted permission to Targetfollow for a £30m revamp, including 154 homes on the 2.2 acre site.

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The developers say the current proposals are within the parameters of the previous approvals.

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor.

Jamie Osborn, Green city councillor for Mancroft ward in Norwich. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

However, Jamie Osborn, Green city councillor for Mancroft ward, said he had concerns about the proposals.

He said: "The site does need to be redeveloped as it it has been vacant for a long time, but I do have concerns.

"The flats seem to be single aspect and small, when what Norwich needs is quality housing for families.

"I am also concerned about canyoning of the river.

"And I am not sure how sustainable those flats would be. We have had a conveyor belt of student flats coming through. Do we really need all of them?

"What happens if there is not the demand for them? They could just end up standing empty."

Housebuilder Halsbury Homes last week claimed, during hearings about the Greater Norwich Local Plan - a blueprint for where thousands of homes will be built - that there is no demand for flats in the city.

History of the area

Sir Thomas More's Utopia on a building in Norwich.

The building at the site off Duke Street which the words from Sir Thomas More's novel, Utopia, written on it. - Credit: Denise Bradley

The development site is a stone's throw away from where the Duke of Norfolk's Palace once stood.

That palace, believed to have been built in 1561, included courtyards, a fountain, a tower, a bowling alley and covered tennis courts.

It almost certainly occupied the land where St Andrews Car Park now stands - but, in 2015, archaeologists said it could "not be discounted" that archaeological remains associated with the palace complex could lie beneath the electricity board site.

The palace was extensively rebuilt and remodelled in 1671, but in 1711, a mere forty years later, demolition work had started.

That was possibly because of subsidence caused by flooding, but some historians have suggested it was because of a row between the Duke of Norfolk and the Mayor of Norwich.

The Anchor Brewery, founded by Richard Bullard in 1837, occupied part of the development site, which was also home to an iron works.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Electric Light Company power station was built, to the designs of Edward Boardman and his son.

Edward Boardman.

Edward Boardman. - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Renowned architect Boardman also designed the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and converted Norwich Castle from a prison into a museum.

Artist Rory Macbeth and his mural.

Artist Rory Macbeth and his mural with the words from Thomas More's Utopia. - Credit: Archant

The site also includes a warehouse building which has all the words of Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia' on it.

That unusual mural was created in 2006 as part of an art project by Rory Macbeth.