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Owners of ‘eyesore’ building could be forced to sell it to council

PUBLISHED: 10:23 14 November 2020 | UPDATED: 15:44 14 November 2020

The former railway social club at Ailwyn Hall in Lower Clarence Road, which Norwich City Council is trying to compulsory purchase for housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The former railway social club at Ailwyn Hall in Lower Clarence Road, which Norwich City Council is trying to compulsory purchase for housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The owners of a derelict building, branded ‘an eyesore’, could be forced to sell it - so council houses can be built on the site.

Gail Harris, Norwich City Council cabinet member for social housing. Pic: Archant Library.Gail Harris, Norwich City Council cabinet member for social housing. Pic: Archant Library.

Norwich City Council wants to use a compulsory purchase order to buy Ailwyn Hall, the former railway social club, on Lower Clarence Road in Thorpe Hamlet.

The building, strewn with graffiti, has been unused since 2005 and City Hall officers want to build social housing there.

Early last year, the council made contact with the owner’s representatives to open negotiations to buy the site. A financial offer was made, but was not accepted by the owner.Negotiations have continued.

In August last year, the council’s planning department was approached over the possibility of creating 111-bed student accommodation at the site.

The former railway social club at Ailwyn Hall in Lower Clarence Road, which Norwich City Council is trying to compulsory purchase for housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe former railway social club at Ailwyn Hall in Lower Clarence Road, which Norwich City Council is trying to compulsory purchase for housing. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But officers told the would-be developers that the scale of the proposal was likely to have an “unacceptable impact” upon neighbouring residents and did not fit council policy on purpose-built student accommodation.

The council then appointed Chaplin Farrant architects to produce an initial design for new social housing scheme for the site - if the council were to succeed in buying it.

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Three design options were presented, including versions with three, four and five storeys and varying numbers of one-bedroom flats.

At last Wednesday’s meeting of the city council’s cabinet, councillors agreed to push ahead with attempts to secure a compulsory purchase order to make the owner sell the site.

That decision came despite representatives for the site’s owners calling for the item to be withdrawn from the agenda, because plans for a hotel at the site had recently been lodged.

However, on the advice of officers, councillors agreed to continue their course of action, while acknowledging negotiations would continue and the planning application would be examined.

Gail Harris, the council’s cabinet member for social housing, said: “It can only be described as an eyesore and we cannot allow people to leave sites like that undeveloped, bringing down the whole area.”

Earlier this year, the council agreed to seek a compulsory purchase order to force the owner of the former King’s Arms pub in Mile Cross to sell up, so that could make way for housing.

MORE: Council accused of ‘wasting’ £1m after building returned to owner after seven year compulsory purchase battle


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