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Spate of bids for student flats in Norwich city centre spark concerns

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:46 16 December 2017

The former Norwich Union building on St Stephen's Street, which is being turned into student flats. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The former Norwich Union building on St Stephen's Street, which is being turned into student flats. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

Concern has been raised that the sudden surge in bids to build student flats in Norwich is happening without a proper strategy to see if they are needed.

Pablo Fanque House, which is a student flat scheme being built in All Saints Green. Pic: Sonya Duncan.Pablo Fanque House, which is a student flat scheme being built in All Saints Green. Pic: Sonya Duncan.

The past couple of years have seen a spate of developments and applications to build student flats and apartments in the heart of the city centre.

That has been welcomed by many, including the Norwich Business Improvement District, for bringing economic benefits and adding to the vibrancy of the heart of Norwich.

But it has emerged Norwich City Council has no up to date assessment of the city’s need for student accommodation.

And that prompted concern that a strategy is essential to help control the “piecemeal” applications being lodged.

Green city councillor Simeon Jackson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYGreen city councillor Simeon Jackson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Last week saw the first time a large scale development of student flats has been turned down. A proposal for 285 flats at a car park next to former Aviva offices Sentinel House, in Surrey Street, was rejected by City Hall’s planning committee.

And, during the debate, officers said they did not have an up to date assessment of the need for student accommodation in the city, although they said work was under way to draw one up.

Green Party councillors said it was needed as soon as possible.

Green councillor Simeon Jackson, who represents Mancroft, said: “With the University of East Anglia and Norwich University of the Arts planning to expand, there will clearly be a need for more student accommodation in the future.

“At the moment, applications are coming forward piecemeal, with no overall vision for what Norwich actually wants and needs.

“To avoid unplanned development putting pressure on transport and other services, we need a strategy setting out how the city’s student population will be housed for many years to come.

“We need to decide how much accommodation is needed, what kind, and where.”

Mike Stonard, Labour’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning, said the council worked closely with both the city’s universities.

He said: “Work to develop the approach for managing this type of accommodation is ongoing and takes into account the universities’ future plans, as well as other residential requirements across Norwich.”

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