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Alternative vision for Anglia Square, including sky garden, mooted at inquiry

PUBLISHED: 14:11 29 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:11 29 January 2020

Historic England commissioned Ash Sakula Architects to come up with alternatives to the Anglia Square scheme. Their plans include a sky garden. Pic: Ash Sakula Architects

Historic England commissioned Ash Sakula Architects to come up with alternatives to the Anglia Square scheme. Their plans include a sky garden. Pic: Ash Sakula Architects

Ash Sakula Architects

An alternative to the controversial £271m revamp of Anglia Square has been mooted by heritage watchdogs - to show how it could be redeveloped without harming Norwich.

John Neale, Historic England's planning director in the East of England, at the planning inquiry for Anglia Square. Picture: ArchantJohn Neale, Historic England's planning director in the East of England, at the planning inquiry for Anglia Square. Picture: Archant

Historic England commissioned architects Ash Sakula Architects to demonstrate how something more sympathetic to the city's character could be created.

That vision includes just under 600 homes, the bulk of them on low levels.

And it would feature a sky garden, with views over the city.

Historic England said the idea was to demonstrate how Anglia Square could be developed in a different way to the Columbia Threadneedle/Weston Homes scheme the inquiry is focused on.

Plans for a 20-storey tower in Anglia Square. Photo: Weston HomesPlans for a 20-storey tower in Anglia Square. Photo: Weston Homes

The inquiry is considering the Anglia Square plans agreed by Norwich City Council in 2018.

That includes more than 1,200 new homes, including in a 20-storey tower, a hotel, cinema car parks and new shops.

The inquiry was triggered after Historic England asked for a government call-in.

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The heritage organisation objected due to the massing and height of the revamp - and its impact on the historic city skyscape, including the city's castle and cathedrals.

At today's hearing, John Neale, from Historic England, said: "I am concerned with both the tower and the mass of the development.

"The tower clearly would be seen across the city, but the combination would make a fundamental change in the intensity of buildings in this part of Norwich."

He said "severe harm" would be caused to the setting of historic buildings in Norwich and the commissioning of the alternative vision was because the proposals were "so fundamentally at odds with the character of the city".

He said: "It's not a scheme which would be viable in the present circumstances and we do not advance it as a viable scheme, but it does give serious pause for thought."

Russell Harris, QC, for the applicants, then cross-examined Mr Neale, including over how complete the assessment processes done by Heritage England were and about the definition of "severe" harm.

This is the first of four weeks of inquiry.

Afterwards, planning inspector Dave Prentis will make a recommendation tothe secretary of state, who will decide if the revamp should go ahead or not.

MORE: The battle for Anglia Square: White elephant or a huge boost for Norwich?

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