Homeless idea raised for former Barclays bank up for sale

An artist's impression of new plans for the former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street. Pictured inset is owner Tony Matless

An artist's impression of new plans for the former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street. Pictured inset is owner Tony Matless - Credit: Cannon Clarke Architects/Tony Matless

Calls are being made to scrap plans for new apartments and offices at the site of a former bank in Norwich's Anglia Square and instead provide accommodation for the homeless.

Tony Matless, owner of the freehold of the former Barclays building in Magdalen Street, is putting the site up for auction as a planning application has been submitted to the city council by Cannon Clarke Architects.

These plans propose the vacant 2.5-storey building being replaced with a four-storey combination of flexible commercial space and 13 apartments above

Mr Matless, 69, is a self-confessed "wheeler and dealer" who owns various businesses across the county including Abbey Memorials and Dave's Fish Bar in Sheringham. 

He said: "It is a unique building with its vault but it is really old and needs to be knocked down and rebuilt."

Tony Matless, a Norfolk businessman who is putting the former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street up for sale 

Tony Matless, a Norfolk businessman who is putting the former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street up for sale - Credit: Contributed

The plans have prompted questions over whether the site could be used for the homeless with a group of people pitching tents underneath the flyover nearby.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of the St Martins charity believes Anglia Square would be a good location for homeless accommodation. 

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldo

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldon. Picture: St Martins - Credit: Archant

She said: "New accommodation is always useful and the people we support generally have a preference for accommodation close to the city.

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"We’re really pleased to be in a position through the support of local people and businesses to be providing an additional 41 beds in the next nine months or so.

Homeless people are living in tents under the Anglia Square flyover 

Homeless people are living in tents under the Anglia Square flyover - Credit: Ben Hardy

"However, we’re disappointed that there is still a need for our services. No one should be having to consider sleeping rough or be worried about being homeless in 2022." 

Some Anglia Square shoppers also raised the idea of creating accommodation for the homeless in Anglia Square rather than creating more swanky apartments.

The former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street 

The former Barclays bank in Magdalen Street - Credit: Ben Hardy

It comes as Weston Homes in conjunction with landowner Columbia Threadneedle, has a vision to regenerate Anglia Square with “Covent Garden style” landscaping and around 1,100 homes.

Shopper Steve Smith, 63, who lives in Costessey, said: "There are apartments going up everywhere in every square inch so do we really need another 13? 

"A day location or somewhere to shelter the homeless would be good as that is an issue in this part of the city. 

Steve Smith, of Costessey, who shops in Anglia Square 

Steve Smith, of Costessey, who shops in Anglia Square - Credit: Ben Hardy

"They could take an altruistic approach especially when you have got people under the flyover.

"If you put 10 homeless people in accommodation then that would be more worthwhile than yet more apartments." 

Mr Matless, who is a member of four golf clubs in Norfolk, has owned the freehold for around seven years and said he would be open to selling the site to Weston Homes if the developer was interested.

The  businessman and Jon Brent of Cannon Clarke Architects did not comment on the homeless idea. 

Mr Matless said: "I love wheeling and dealing but my wife kept telling me I have got to stop. I get a buzz from it. 

"I was born in a council house in South Park Avenue and started in this trade when I was 15 with AJ Woods then I worked for myself and bought them out." 

An artist's impression of the proposed changes for the former bank in Magdalen Street 

An artist's impression of the proposed changes for the former bank in Magdalen Street - Credit: Cannon Clarke Architects

Other traders and shops in Anglia Square would prefer to see the former Barclays turned into another bank. 

Carol Mann, a trader in Aladdin's cave in Magdalen Street, said: "We have not got enough banks down here. TSB is planning to shut its branch down. 

"We are a cash based business so it can be tricky for me when customers want to sell second-hand clothes but only want cash.

"I have not got a problem with the homes from a logic point of view because people have to realistically make a profit." 

Carol Mann, who sells vintage clothing in Aladdin's cave in Magdalen Street

Carol Mann, who sells vintage clothing in Aladdin's cave in Magdalen Street - Credit: Ben Hardy

Shopper Julie Rush, 65, used to visit the former Barclays and said she would ideally like to see another bank.

The Thorpe St Andrew woman added: "It would be good to see that empty building being used." 

Julie Rush, of Thorpe St Andrew, who enjoys shopping in Anglia Square 

Julie Rush, of Thorpe St Andrew, who enjoys shopping in Anglia Square - Credit: Ben Hardy

Abs Bahi, owner of Canary Barber Shop opposite the former bank, said: "It is ugly to look at right now so it needs urgently changing and bringing back to life." 

Abs Bahi, owner of Canary Barbers in Magdalen Street

Abs Bahi, owner of Canary Barbers in Magdalen Street - Credit: Ben Hardy