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Norwich worth investing in, says man behind £80m shoe factory revamp scheme

PUBLISHED: 08:31 13 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:23 13 January 2018

Dominic Richards of Architekton. Pic: Architekton.

Dominic Richards of Architekton. Pic: Architekton.

Archant

The man behind an £80m revamp of a former Norwich shoe factory says the controversial scheme should be seen as a sign of confidence the city can attract major investment.

An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place. An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place.

At a time when Unilever and Britvic tare o shut their city factories, the developer behind the revamp of the former St Mary’s Works shoe factory, said he “totally disagreed” Norwich was not worth investing in.

Dominic Richards, chief executive of developers Architekton and applicant The Shoe Quarter, this week saw his proposal to transform the former Sexton, Son and Everard factory, off Duke Street, given the green light by Norwich City Council.

He wants to transform the former factory and nearby area to provide 151 homes, more than 46,000 sq ft of office space, a hotel with restaurant, a gallery, shops and 120 car park spaces.

The developers say that will create more than 350 jobs and Mr Richards said: “This is a very big day for Norwich, which is the city I live in. I totally disagree with those who say that Norwich is not worth investing in. I passionately believe that it is.

An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place. An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place.

“We need quality jobs in a quality place. We desperately need to create knowledge-based economy jobs in Norwich. We have now got a clear consensus for regenerating that part of Norwich. Hopefully we can start work by the end of the year.”

The scheme had attracted criticism, because developers argued hitting a target of 33pc of affordable homes meant it would not be viable.

Instead, they argued - and an independent valuer backed them up - that only four affordable homes, or a sum of £353,000 in lieu of them, would be acceptable for work to start.

But Mr Richards said that could change. He said his project in Spitalfields in London, which would be linked to the St Mary’s Works site, had secured 30pc affordable housing.

An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place. An artist's impression of how the St Mary's Works site will look. Pic: Our Place.

He said: “I am completely committed to affordable housing. I understand that it is important, but there are hoops we need to jump through and we will deliver what we can.”

Permission was granted by six votes to three.

Labour councillor Charmain Woollard, who voted for it, said: “We have just lost 350 jobs at Unilever and Britvic and this site is going to create 350 jobs, as well as a lot of work during construction and demolition.”

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