Developers behind £80m Norwich redevelopment scheme ask to avoid building affordable housing

PUBLISHED: 09:17 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:59 11 January 2018

St Mary's Works, St Mary's Plain, Norwich.

St Mary's Works, St Mary's Plain, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

City planners are being urged not to “sabotage” their own housing policy as developers behind an £80m scheme at St Mary’s Works will ask to avoid providing dozens of affordable homes.

The redeveloped shoe factory at St Mary's Works could have a glass roof. Pic: ArchitektonThe redeveloped shoe factory at St Mary's Works could have a glass roof. Pic: Architekton

An outline application for the development, to include 151 homes, office space and a hotel with 120 parking spaces, will come to Norwich City Council planning committee on Thursday.

A viability assessment has been written for developers Architekton by Red Box, which argues a provision of 50 affordable homes would prevent the scheme being cost-effective.

Instead they argue only four affordable homes, or a commuted sum of £353,234, would be acceptable to allow work to begin at the site.

A report to the city council planning committee, recommending approval for the outline scheme, states: “Whilst it is disappointing that only a low level of affordable housing can be provided, this needs to be weighed up against the wider regeneration of this site and the potential for improved publically accessible amenity space and the creation of jobs this development will provide.”

Architekton has previously claimed the revamp of the former show factory could create around 400 new jobs for the city.

But former Green Party councillor Dr Andrew Boswell said to approve the scheme the council would be “sabotaging their own planning guidance”.

“The SPD says at the outline stage an application should be fully policy compliant,” he said. “When the application is much more refined we have a much better idea about viability and can negotiate it.

“If the council mandated to have an independent assessment they would at least start off on a level playing field.”

Dr Boswell added the scheme could generate more than £11m profit if it met 33pc affordable housing provision, according to the developer’s own calculations.

Planning officers are advising there be a “review of viability at reserved matters stage and at a stage during construction and agree that the amount of on-site provision or commuted sum can only be revised upwards at these review stages.”

Green Party councillor Simeon Jackson added: “The council’s lax approach to affordable housing means those most in need of housing will not benefit.

“The council needs to get much tougher on enforcing its policy.”

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