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Government grants £15m to Anglia Square revamp despite 'risks' to council

PUBLISHED: 09:53 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:24 16 January 2020

The current Anglia Square v the new plans. Photos: Antony Kelly/Weston Homes

The current Anglia Square v the new plans. Photos: Antony Kelly/Weston Homes

Antony Kelly/Weston Homes

Millions of pounds worth of government funding is set to go to the controversial £271m Anglia Square redevelopment - despite "risks" from the owner's refusal to guarantee not to sell the land.

Norwich city councillor Mike Stonard. Pic: Archant.Norwich city councillor Mike Stonard. Pic: Archant.

The fate of up to £12.2m of extra cash hung in the balance after the city council's decision to agree a proposed revamp of the shopping centre sparked calls for an inquiry.

After the housing secretary 'called in' the decision, the council feared it would miss the deadline to spend the government money.

But Homes England agreed to extend the timetable if the plans were still granted permission and increased its offer to £15m.

READ MORE: Council spending £350,000 on lawyers for Anglia Square revamp inquiry

And the council was asked to ensure Anglia Square's owner - investment firm Columbia Threadneedle - would comply with a condition not to sell the site once the infrastructure paid for with government money was in place.

But despite the firm refusing to agree to the restriction, Homes England have agreed to grant the money to the city council, with a restriction placed instead on the site's leasehold title, which is held by the developer Weston Homes.

At a city council meeting on Wednesday, January 15, head of planning, Graham Nelson, said: "Homes England have accepted that the contract with the city council will not require us to put a restriction on the freehold title of the site. It will require us to put a restriction on the leasehold title."

READ MORE: Millions of pounds for Anglia Square revamp is hanging in the balance

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Mr Nelson said while this was a "risk", he was happy to advise councillors to sign the contract.

He added: "Any risks have been substantially mitigated by the way the contract has been worded."

And the council will not receive any of the £15m until a separate contract has been negotiated with the developer which is dependent on the public inquiry's outcome.

Mike Stonard, cabinet member for development, said: "It would be wrong of us to use this decision to materially influence the outcome of the planning inquiry."

READ MORE: 'David and Goliath situation' - Objectors discuss Anglia Square development

While city councillor Karen Davis requested the contract be brought to the council's scrutiny committee but was told due to the timing this would be impossible.

Monitoring officer Rachel Crosbie said: "If it's not signed tomorrow they've advised me that the funding will be pulled."

Liberal Democrat councillor James Wright said he was "deeply uncomfortable" with this, but added: "The only glimmer of hope is there's no financial liability if the draw down never happens."

The Anglia Square inquiry will start on Tuesday, January 28.

READ MORE: Critics of £271m Anglia Square revamp to hold public meeting

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