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£13m vision for a hundred new homes at Norwich’s scandal-hit Greyhound Opening site

PUBLISHED: 10:58 26 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:58 26 August 2014

An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.

An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.

Norwich City Council

A £13m vision for more than a hundred new homes at one of the most controversial patches of land in Norwich is unveiled today - nearly six years after the site became mired in scandal.

An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.

Norwich City Council has started consultation over plans to build 109 homes on the 1.2 hectare site, off Greyhound Opening and Goldsmith Street, off Dereham Road.

The site made national headlines in 2008, after it emerged city council officers had moved into homes made vacant after elderly council tenants were moved elsewhere.

It led to the sacking of Kristine Reeves, the council’s head of neighbourhood and strategic housing, who was among those who moved into the homes.

The homes were knocked down in 2009, but the site has since stood empty and boarded up.

An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.An artist's impression of the £13m housing development which could be built on the former Greyhound Opening site in Norwich. Pic: Norwich City Council.

A deal for a social housing organisation to buy the land and build new homes fell through, but council leaders hope the authority is finally on the brink of building the new homes itself.

The council has come up with a scheme which City Hall officers say will recreate the terraced streets of Norwich. It is designed as a mixture of 55, one-bedroom flats, 10 two-bedroom flats, 33 two-bedroom houses, six three-bedroom houses and five four-bedroom houses.

Flats would have terraces, while the houses would have their own gardens, backing onto a more communal area.

The council aims to build them to the highest standards of energy efficiency possible, with what are known as Passivhaus features such as extra thick insulation and triple glazed windows and doors.

The Greyhound Opening saga

Greyhound Opening made national headlines in 2008 after it emerged that, contrary to city council policy, council staff had moved into sheltered housing on the site, after elderly people who lived there moved out.

The pensioners who lived there and in nearby Goldsmith Street were being re-homed to make way for new houses.

While the council had agreed officers relocating to Norwich could go into the homes, so elderly people who had yet to move out would not feel isolated, it was against policy for other staff to move in.

It sparked a scandal at City Hall, with calls for an independent inquiry, and led to the sacking of Kristine Reeves, the council’s head of neighbourhood and strategic housing, who was among those who moved into the properties.

The homes were demolished in 2009.

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, acknowledged that, six years after the former tenants moved out, she would have liked to see new homes built much sooner.

She said: “Yes, it is frustrating. I wish we could have started building straight away. However, reduced funding from central government made it more difficult to finance the building of new homes at a time when we need them more than ever.

“We needed to work in partnership to make the site viable at a time when registered housing providers were reliant on cross-subsidy from private sales and the economic downturn meant there was too much risk.

“We are delighted that changes to self-financing regulation mean we are now able to develop sites ourselves. This means we will not only be delivering vital new homes, but looking for opportunities to provide market sale and market rent dwellings to meet demand and to protect frontline council services - all of which is great news for the city.”

At least 60pc of the new development will be council housing, let through the Norwich Home Options scheme. But officers are still considering whether to make the rest available for private sale.

As part of the scheme, the nearby public space which faces homes in Midland Walk will be “enhanced”. Council officers say they want to turn that into more of a pocket park.

Consultation was launched today, with letters sent to about 400 homes in and around the site. A public consultation event will be held at the Russell Street Community Centre from 3pm until 7pm on Thursday, September 11.

Council officers say the plans could change depending on what comes from the consultation. But the aim is to submit a planning application in October. If permission is granted, work, which would take between a year-and-a-half and two years, could start in spring next year.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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