What do you think? Aviva challenges city council’s vision for Norwich city centre

Norwich City Council's artist's impression of St Stephens Square and the pedestrian link with the bus station from its 2009 masterplan Norwich City Council's artist's impression of St Stephens Square and the pedestrian link with the bus station from its 2009 masterplan

Friday, February 8, 2013
12:17 PM

Insurance giant Aviva has drawn up its own proposals for a city centre revamp – challenging city council designs for the future of a major shopping street.

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Norwich City Council’s vision for the St Stephens area includes creating a walkway to the bus station by demolishing the two St Stephens Towers and eight Aviva-owned shops, including BHS, CEX and WH Smith.

The aim is to provide better pedestrian access between St Stephens Street and Queens Road/Surrey Street and provide new shops and homes.

But Evening News research shows Aviva believes the city council’s plan for St Stephens Towers – which could cost Aviva at least £22.7m – is unsound and is urging a rethink, saying: “We would strongly recommend that the draft masterplan is reconsidered.”

Council officials are planning to submit a list of sites earmarked for new houses to the government in April, with a public inquiry due to start in July or September.

The two St Stephens Street towers in Norwich.Picture: James Bass.The two St Stephens Street towers in Norwich.Picture: James Bass.

Aviva has asked the council to confirm that demolition of the St Stephens Towers, which have been vacant since 2009, is “not an essential element of any redevelopment proposal”.

The firm wants the number of properties for the site to be reduced from 250 to a minimum of 150. Aviva designs outline how the towers could provide 149 apartments, with 119 classed as affordable housing and the remainder used as student accommodation and/or an apartment hotel.

The company has also suggested including the pedestrian link to the bus station - but only if it can be shown to be viable.

Paul Doughty, director of property services company DTZ, writing on behalf of Aviva, told the council: “We believe that the creation of a new pedestrian link between the bus station and St Stephens Street is unlikely to prove financially viable and in addition is likely to adversely affect significant remaining parts of the retail element at St Stephens.

“Furthermore, securing early vacant possession would prove very difficult under L&T [Landlord-Tenant] legislation particularly as a number of tenants have recently committed to new 10-year leases.

“We would therefore strongly recommend that the [2009] draft masterplan is reconsidered and the layout plans altered so that, as far as the retail element is concerned, the accommodation is left in-situ and thus the retail businesses can continue to trade as they do today.”

Aviva has warned it could cost between £2.75m and £3m to demolish the towers and the shop units.

The overall cost of the project to Aviva, including building new retail units, is estimated at between £20.5m to £22.7m. The estimates do not include VAT, inflation and other potential costs.

Aviva added it would immediately lose £1.2m in rent per year, not including service charges, if it had to demolish eight shops.

It estimated the replacement shops mooted by the council would generate approximately £880,000 per year in rent - a loss of £358,000.

A city council spokeswoman said: “The outline St Stephens masterplan was drafted based on a sound knowledge of planning policy, the needs and the history of the area, as well as extensive consultation.

“While it was designed to give a clear vision, or aspiration, for the area, it is also, to some extent, a guide and not designed to rigidly set specific development restrictions in stone, especially when market needs may shift and change.

“The council will continue to listen to changing needs or development ideas, making sure it gets the right balance that will bring the widest benefits to the community and area.”

- What do you think? Leave your comments below, write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

25 comments

  • It would be lovely to be able to cross this busy shopping street without having to wait for streams of traffic - in order to catch a bus from the bus station! There was a fuss when they wanted to pedestrianise Gentlemen's Walk - this has become a lovely area for strolling along or sitting to eat lunch! I was a child when London Street pedestrianisation was being discussed but we could not possibly think of traffic going through there now! With more efficient bus services resulting from the proposed re-routing there should be less traffic clogging up St Stephens, Rampant Horse Street and Chapelfield North - making the area more pleasant to shop, work and live in!

    Report this comment

    Lynda Edwards

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • So not so much a case really of what's best for the City, its future or its people, but more one of what's the cheapest or most profitable option for a multinational corporate behemoth and its shareholders.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • One does start to ask the question as to why so many new developments in Norwich indicate the construction of new office blocks, as part of the development, when buildings like this already exist?

    Report this comment

    COLD

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Just dont allow Norwich City Council to get to involved with contractors. Cause building would start then stop, then switch over to someone else, then there would be compensation payouts left, right and centre. And most of us now reading this story would die before completion anyway

    Report this comment

    chebram71

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

  • Judging from the appalling record of Norwich in destroying its heritage and ruining its beauty and distinction, it a certainty that whatever they do will be infinitely dreadful and destructive.

    Report this comment

    T Doff

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Whatever happens, thought and potential space should be kept on St. Stephens for a possible future tramway, enough width of road should accommodate a double track tram, one that co-uses the local existing rail-network were necessary and which roughly traverses the City towards the University, hospital and the Colney development park and further on to Wymondham along the existing track, or a new one passing Hethersett, the many new housing developments. Alternatively, during the day the tram turns back along the south of Norwich with Eaton- Cringleford, Lakenham and Canary stations, designed by local interested parties, along the way back to the Railway Station. A ring service that also can serve as a commuter service during peak times, traversing the City from the station through the centre, out to the south south west, along a one way Earlham Rd. into the university, hospital life sciences. In the morning this tram, if diesel electric could start in Cromer and end in Wymondham, bringing in commuters on the half hour, turning overhead electric whilst driving through the City. Trams would have priority and suitable signals would tell of their approach. Such a system would add an extra mode to Norwich and connect North east Norfolk with South Norfolk, through the centre of Norwich. It would also provide a reliable, on time modern ring service through Norwich during the daytime. There, that's why.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Aviva [Norwich Union] have ruined,with the agreement of the City Council,the centre of Norwich,along with the many otherpowerful business interests,based in Norwich

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • If the finished job looks like the artists impression, Im all for it. ..It will be nice to get rid of all those buses.

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • If the city has any chance of surviving the downturn, it's needs to move on and modernise otherwise the future looks increasingly grim. Anything that is done to remove traffic from the city open it up and pedestrianise it has got to be a positive thing.

    Report this comment

    Old Long Balls

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Why not just open up the centre part, or run a tunnel to the bus station?

    Report this comment

    COLD

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • It would not be right to advocate that the city should sit around staring at it's collective naval waiting for somewhere else to develop at the expense of our fine city. Why is this development being proposed? Has the city run out of suitable accomodation or is this speculation that the shortage might happen later?

    Report this comment

    George Ezekial

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • That side of St. Stephens was already destroyed by the Blitz back in the second world war! A city is a growing, ever changing thing. You can't just keep it in a time bubble forever. Those eyesores should be demolished and replaced with something better.

    Report this comment

    Stephen Travis

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • All those going on about how they dont like the buses. Just exactly where do they think these buses are going to be? One thing is for sure the workers (less every day I know) do need them to get into the centre of Norwich. They are not going to be able to beam themselves to work a la Startrek.

    Report this comment

    Electra

    Monday, February 11, 2013

  • In case anyone hasnt noticed Aviva is making many people redundant. Why should we want more office buildings? There's noone to go in them.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Why demolish 8 shops for a walk through . How much room do people want? Go and look at walk throughs in Bury St Edmunds to the Arc. We need housing convert the offices to apartments.

    Report this comment

    jennifer jane

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • when did aviva get permission to rename streets? st stephens square is the road behind the trowel and hammer and quasar.....

    Report this comment

    Greg Sayer

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • The draft masterplan is the kind of wish-list or blue sky thinking that the Council should be practicing. It is their ideal. The reality is of course more complex and involves lots and lots of money. I really like the idea of city-centre high rises for affordable living. But Aviva probably only want to do this to save money.

    Report this comment

    oldowl

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • That side of St. Stephens was already destroyed by the Blitz back in the second world war! A city is a growing, ever changing thing. You can't just keep it in a time bubble forever. Those eyesores should be demolished and replaced with something better.

    Report this comment

    Stephen Travis

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Aviva (Norwich Union) has blighted this area of the city for decades. This must have been done with the planning permission of the City Council. Any project of the present City Council deserves only reserved support, based on their past. My personal prejudice goes with getting rid of these bits of commercial third rate modernism - in favour of the modern!

    Report this comment

    peter blyth

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Convert the two towers to apartments . A walkway through to the bus station need only be relatively narrow , and not very high , it wouldn`t surely require whole scale demolition .

    Report this comment

    dragonfly

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Aviva (Norwich Union) has blighted this area of the city for decades. This must have been done with the planning permission of the City Council. Any project of the present City Council deserves only reserved support, based on their past. My personal prejudice goes with getting rid of these bits of commercial third rate modernism - in favour of the modern!

    Report this comment

    peter blyth

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • I welcome Aviva challenge as this is democratic and questions the process and progress of development. However, knowing Aviva - they only challenge when they may lose out! Like many o f their policy holders! Listen to their arguements but do not just accept them! St Stephens is looking dated and in need of rejuvenation - like Aviva. Norwich City Council is part of government so we need them to be challenged - to make us think! If onloy we would all think - and join the arguement - how much better would this country be? A shame there is no spell checker here!

    Report this comment

    roandtrevor

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • The plan was to continue the building style,as the lower part of St Stephens Street

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • We should be very cautious about any suggestions from Aviva. By moving many of their employees out of the city centre to Broadland Business Park in 2009 they severely damaged the local economy and caused many more car trips as people had to drive to work for the first time.

    Report this comment

    DrJB

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • So not so much a case really of what's best for the City, its future or its people, but more one of what's the cheapest or most profitable option for a multinational corporate behemoth and its shareholders.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Friday, February 8, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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