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Progress on major Norwich projects?

PUBLISHED: 14:43 25 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:42 02 July 2010

St James Place development, Barrack Street, Norwich

St James Place development, Barrack Street, Norwich

Kim Briscoe

Developers behind two of Norwich's biggest regeneration projects have today spoken of their ambition to start building in 2010.

Developers behind two of Norwich's biggest regeneration projects have today spoken of their ambition to start building in 2010.

A year ago, the Evening News revealed how some of the city's multi-million pound developments had been put on ice because of the recession.

But today the companies behind plans to redevelop Anglia Square and St Anne's Wharf said they wanted to see building work start on the sites this year.

Centenary Ashcroft, which is behind the £100m plan to revamp the 1960s shopping centre, believes it can start if Norwich City Council agrees to a revised scheme it has put forward.

The company wants to reduce the amount of housing, currently at 200 homes, because of the state of the market. Its original plans also included new shops and a supermarket.

Ranald Phillips, director of Centenary Ashcroft, said: “We are actually spending a lot of time trying to work up the slightly revised scheme which can be delivered at an earlier date but it would mean a reduction in the residential side.

“That market may not recover for two to three years.

“It's not unique to Norwich. It has affected a very significant number of proposals right through the UK and a lot of those have been put on ice for the foreseeable future, some may never be developed at all as currently or previously envisaged.

“Both the occupational demand for commercial space and residential markets are such that it's very difficult to consider laying bricks on the site within the next year.

“Having said that our ambition is to start work on Anglia Square certainly in the next year, but it really depends on discussions with the council.”

However, Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew warned the council would still want to hold out for the best quality developments, despite the economic downturn.

He said: “It's really important that we hold out for the highest standards for the city.

“Inevitably some mistakes have been made in the past and we have no intention of making any for the future and if we have got the opportunity to redevelop areas that are screaming out for development then we need to make sure that they are substantially better.”

Mr Morphew admitted that the recession had slowed building projects but said: “I think the desire to develop in the city hasn't gone away.

“A lot of people, developers and businesses last year were taking a breather to wait to see how it was going to pan out, but I think what most people are now clear about is that this is a temporary lull and that Norwich is going to be a blooming good place to be over the next few years.”

Some of the hopes of reviving development in Norwich rest with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), a national housing and regeneration body.

Last September an agreement was signed between Norwich City Council and the HCA. Under the partnership, the HCA will invest £8m into Norwich and the city council will invest in a number of sites for new homes around the city, including the Three Score development in Bowthorpe, where funding will help to put infrastructure in place ahead of building new homes.

The sites will be jointly developed and the surplus which comes out of these will be reinvested jointly into more regeneration schemes in the city. More than 1,300 new homes and hundreds of new jobs are expected to be created over a 12-year period.

But it is not just the council that is working with the HCA. Developers themselves have been given the chance to bid for grant funding to kick-start building projects across the country.

In England the HCA received 666 bids from housebuilders and housing associations, asking for much more money than the considerable sums the agency has to hand out.

City Living Developments, which is behind the £100m St Anne's Wharf project for more than 400 homes between King Street and the Wensum, has been shortlisted for some of this cash and will find out in June if it has been successful.

Graeme Whyte, group managing director for City Living Developments, said: “We are extremely optimistic about securing that.

“The grant, in conjunction with our funders, will be exactly what we need to kick-start the scheme.”

Mr Whyte said that if secured, the funding would help them to begin work on 126 homes, a couple of retail units and a car park.

He said: “We are one of the biggest developments in the middle of Norwich. We are extremely keen to do it, but like any developer we have to get the balance and the risk right - for example where is the market, can we sell and is our bank with us?”

He said that forecasts predict a tough year for 2010, but said if the funding was secured they would be “keen to get back on track this year”.

Terry Fuller, regional director of the HCA, said a professional committee would be deciding on the grants. He said that schemes that do not have the support of their local authority would not be successful in their bids.

Do you have a story about a development in Norwich? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk.

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