Call for 'joined-up' strategy to protect city's heritage amid housing boom

An aerial sketch of SAVE's proposed vision for Anglia Square, with the historic Botolph Street reinstated through the site

An aerial sketch of SAVE's proposed vision for Anglia Square, with the historic Botolph Street reinstated through the site - Credit: Ash Sakula Architects

With major new housing projects being lined up across the city, heritage experts are calling for a more cohesive building strategy. 

Planners in the Fine City has recently been handed droves of proposals for swanky new apartment blocks to cater to a burgeoning student and young professional population.

However plans to transform Anglia Square into 1,100 new homes have recently been challenged by Save Britain's Heritage's alternative vision to Weston Homes' proposals. 

The national heritage group has created its own "lower-rise development based around streets" with 773 homes and an emphasis on retaining the cluster of historic buildings around Pitt Street. 

These buildings - three of which have been submitted to Historic England for potential listing -  include the potential remains of the 11th century Anglo-Saxon church of St Olave’s.

A concept image of plans for Norwich's Anglia Square.

A concept image of plans for Norwich's Anglia Square. - Credit: Weston Homes

SAVE Britain’s Heritage director, Henrietta Billings, said: "The existing Anglia Square sits like a cuckoo in the nest within Norwich’s remarkable medieval core and is widely regarded now as a mistake of the 1960s.

"We continue to support its redevelopment but believe this could be done in a different way which would unlock public benefits without harming the historic character of the city. 

An alternative vision has been presented for Anglia Square to rival Weston Homes 

An alternative vision has been presented for Anglia Square to rival Weston Homes - Credit: Save Britain's Heritage/Ash Sakula Architects

"A sympathetic, contextual approach is needed in Norwich, with low-rise streets and squares, characteristic of many creative quarters emerging in historic cities across the UK, without damaging the essential character that makes the city so special.

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"It’s about the right development in the right place."

Weston Homes has previously said it would not comment on matters around Anglia Square while its application goes through the planning process.

An artist's impression of Save Britain's Heritage's vision for Anglia Square 

An artist's impression of Save Britain's Heritage's vision for Anglia Square - Credit: Save Britain's Heritage/Ash Sakula Architects

A decision on Weston Homes' application is expected from Norwich City Council in Autumn 2022.

Stuart McLaren, a historian from the St Augustine's Community Together Residents' Association, is among those who does not want to see historical buildings being "completely dominated" by new skyline accommodation.

Stuart McLaren. Photo: Bill Smith.

Stuart McLaren. Photo: Bill Smith. - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Mr McLaren said: "Councils with planning authority do not seem to have a coherent plan for how they want cities to develop. It seems to be piecemeal development.

"There needs to be coherent plan across the city which there does not seem to be.

"Norwich is an important place for heritage with its historic buildings and that in itself is part of what makes it an attractive place to live and work."

Carrow Works revelopment

How the Carrow Works site could look after redevelopment. - Credit: Allies And Morrison

The historian highlighted the scale of big student blocks being built across Norwich.

These concerns have been challenged by Norwich City Council, with a spokesman saying: “The council is committed to protecting designated and non-designated heritage assets in accordance with local and national planning policies, and consults with heritage bodies during the assessment of relevant planning applications.

“When appropriate, expert advice is sought from heritage bodies such as Historic England, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Historic Buildings and Places, the Council for British Archaeology, the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society and the Twentieth Century Society.”

Meanwhile Labour MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, said he believes the bottom line with developers is profitability. 

Labour's Clive Lewis. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Labour's Clive Lewis. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Mr Lewis added: "With regards to heritage, a developer will look to get away with the bare minimum to make it legal and get it through the other end. 

"Profit is the function that drives developers. Heritage is always going to be a secondary consideration for them."

A public consultation for the development of Anglia Square continued in the Maids Head Hotel on Monday 

A Weston Homes public consultation for the new Anglia Square plans taking place at the Maids Head Hotel in May - Credit: Ben Hardy

But chartered architect Spiros Defteraios, who is based in the Midlands but has worked on projects in Norwich, said conversations around heritage are constant, with the ultimate decision coming down to planners.

He also highlighted listed buildings cannot be demolished easily as they are afforded the greatest protection.

Mr Defteraois said: "Norwich is a historically sensitive area to work with. All places follow the same principle that the more history and heritage a place has means the interest is bigger and wider."

Spiros Defteraios, director of SD Studio Ltd

Spiros Defteraios, director of SD Studio Ltd - Credit: Contributed

Developers and architects will be in constant discussions with a conservation officer during a planning process, and sometimes public bodies such as Historic England where necessary, he added.

Antony Blowers, a partner of Norwich-based Homebuilding Company, said: "When something is listed it can be a bit of nightmare getting it to the point of agreeing with the local authority over what can and can't be done."