Sold! Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre gets a buyer

Anglia Square, Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay. Anglia Square, Norwich. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Friday, May 30, 2014
11:27 AM

Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre has been sold, with the new owners pledging they will invest to make the complex a success.

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Memories of Anglia Square

Public affairs correspondent Dan Grimmer was a regular visitor to Anglia Square in his youth...

“I know people in Norwich who have never been to Anglia Square.

“But, when I was a child, it was there, rather than the city, where I’d go shopping with my mum.

“Back then, there was no Asda or Tesco on the outskirts and, as we didn’t own a car, they would have been no use to us anyway.

“Sainsbury’s was the supermarket in Anglia Square and I have fond memories of being bought Victoria slices and jam tarts in the cake shop nearby.

“Martin’s newsagent is one of the few surviving shops from that time. It was a rich source for Superman and Batman comics.

“But it was the Odeon cinema, with its single, massive, screen which I looked forward to visiting the most.

“On one shopping trip, I bumped into a schoolfriend and promptly abandoned my mum to go and see Return of the Jedi.”

What are your memories of Anglia Square? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

The shopping centre has been bought by international investment manager Threadneedle Investments, ending months of speculation.

The deal prompted Brenda Arthur, the leader of Norwich City Council, to hail the sale as “a vote of confidence in the future of Norwich”.

The new owners were tight-lipped about how much they had paid for the 1960s centre, or how much they were prepared to invest in its future.

But they insisted they were committed to the square’s success and would be reviewing investment opportunities in the months ahead to attract more businesses and shoppers to the centre.

The saga so far

The first shops in Anglia Square opened in 1970, but the complex, designed by architect Alan Cooke, was very much a product of the 1960s.

The square took six years to build, but was never actually finished.

The original intention was that Anglia Square would extend to the west, over what is now a car park, to join up with St Augustines Street and Pitt Street.

Throughout the 1970s there were various proposals to plug that gap, mainly by office developments including, at one point, to be occupied by part of the Bank of England.

They never materialised and as a set of draft planning guidelines produced by Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council in the 1980s stated: “The appearance of the development was allowed to decline during the 1970s.”

Stores such as Sainsbury’s, Fine Fare and Maple & Co have been and gone and Sovereign House is no longer home to workers from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

But Anglia Square has always remained and there has long been hope for a major revamp.

A succession of owners has taken on the square and promised much. Lagmar Properties paid former owners Quintain £24m for the complex in 2005 and unveiled plans to pump £25m into it.

By 2006 they had sold the property for a £12m profit, without having made the promised investment.

There was renewed optimism when development managers Centenary Ashcroft secured permission, on behalf of Anglia Square Partnerships Ltd, for a multi-million pound regeneration of the complex.

But hampered by the recession, those plans came to nothing. It remains to be seen what the future holds.

However, it is understood planning permission secured for the square on behalf of its previous owners is unlikely to be pursued.

Instead, the new owners look likely to come up with their own vision for Anglia Square’s future, following consultation.

Jeremy Collin, property asset manager at Threadneedle Investments, said: “We are extremely pleased to be the new owners of Anglia Square.

“We believe the shopping centre has considerable potential and we are excited about creating a vibrant business environment for existing tenants and attracting new occupiers to the centre to offer a better retail experience for the local community.

“Over the coming months, and in consultation with key stakeholders, we will be looking closely at how we can secure a commercially viable future for Anglia Square and make it an attractive place to visit, do business and shop.

“We will communicate with local businesses and people before undertaking any major work to the centre. In the meantime, it is business as usual at Anglia Square.”

Threadneedle Investments, which has been keeping tabs on Anglia Square since the mid 2000s, owns 35 retail properties across the country, including Bethal Square in Brecon and Pavilion Shopping Centre in Tonbridge.

Last month, the Norwich Evening News reported how the sale was on the cards, after Northern Ireland-based BTW Shiells, which was managing the square, wrote to businesses to assure them the new owners would be committed to its future.

A major revamp of Anglia Square has been in the pipeline for years, but progress on the facelift was badly hampered because of the recession.

It meant the square ended up in the hands of the National Asset Management Company - the body created by the Irish government in 2009 in response to the Irish financial crisis. The London-based new owners bought it from that agency.

The new owners are keen to stress it is “business as usual” while consideration is given to how to improve the square.

But it looks unlikely that planning permission secured on behalf of the previous owners will go forward in that form.

Those plans, agreed by Norwich City Council, were for 174 new homes, a public square, new shops, restaurants, cafes and a healthcare centre, while Gildengate House, the office block over the entrance to the car park, would have been updated to provide modern offices.

The plans included a 7,792 square metre foodstore, and it emerged last year that Tesco had been involved in negotiations to take on that store.

A spokesman for Threadneedle Investments said the new owners were “very much” open to talks with leading retailers.

Norwich City Council leader Ms Arthur said: “Threadneedle’s investment in Anglia Square is a vote of confidence in the future of Norwich.

“Threadneedle is a major property investor with the ability to improve the existing shopping centre and provide jobs for the city.

“I look forward to the council working closely with Threadneedle to deliver this regeneration, realising the benefits for the wider area.”

Trevor Wicks, who runs the Hollywood Cinema in Anglia Square, said it was still early days, but that he was optimistic over what the new owners had said so far.

He said: “We only found out yesterday, so at the moment it doesn’t mean much to us other than it has been sold.

“We will wait to meet up with the new owners and see what sort of plans they have. Hopefully we will be able to talk to them about the sort of ideas we have.”

Mr Wicks added that, with Anglia Square at close to 100pc occupancy, the future was bright for the shopping centre, but that some investment would help.

He said: “Some of the old office buildings could do with something happening to them. There has been talk that some of them could become student accommodation and that would be good. It would be nice to have people living at the site.

“It’s all early days but it is reassuring that the sale has now happened and we could sit down to discuss things. There is a lot of potential here.”

• What would you like to see happen at Anglia Square? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

24 comments

  • Anglia Square always reminds me of Edmonton Green in London, where I grew up. I'm the type of person who may prefer the relatively genteel Gentlemans Walk and city centre shops to Anglia Square, but I by no means disregard the honest quality of Anglia Square, and think it is very valuable, especially now that QD have been forced from St Stephens.

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    Jason Burgess

    Friday, June 6, 2014

  • Can't believe some of the things some snobby people are saying about this place! I moved here recently and it's a wonderful place to live, shop and work. I've lived near Unthank road in the past, as well as the city centre, and the Anglia Square area is better in so many ways. It's one of the most multicultural places in Norwich, which to me makes it really interesting, and makes me feel more at home as an immigrant. The people here are friendly and unpretentious, the shops are good value and I've found it to be much safer than places I've lived in Norwich previously, where my flat was broken into etc. I'm quite worried about anything changing, as surely it can only move in the direction of gentrification, as many commenters have said. More expensive shops followed by more expensive rents, to weed out those 'bad elements' (I'm probably one of them.) If Anglia Square isn't good enough for you then stay in the Golden Triangle or Eaton or wherever! We're happy here.

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    Ava Natty

    Thursday, June 5, 2014

  • Well Norwich needs to get ready to be part of the ever expanding housing belt for the City of London. Those Investment Bankers have to live somewhere. They need their better facilities and shopping so see Norwich catering more to their needs and forcing normal folks out. Thats the only reason HS2 is going into Birmingham, to increase the commuter belt for London.

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    Resident Smith

    Monday, June 2, 2014

  • How can Anglia square be pedestrian friendly?, despite the no cycling signs these morons just pedal through like the idiots they are, no one stops them, it will take a child or pensioner being hurt to make anyone do something.

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    mr mayhem

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • If you don't like small independent retailers, poor people, a mix of nationalities and a pedestrian friendly environment - then don't go to Anglia Square. But, lots of people do and this is the only part of the City that reminds me of London. In a way, with its graffitti and Pound Shops it is just a reflection of reality. Perhaps more so than the rest of the shopping theme park that Norwich is.

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    oldowl

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Reading some of the comments here it is clear that some people would realy much rather the world was like the Truman Show or Pleasantville, all white, nice and sterile and timelocked in the 1950s.

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    Red Steepler

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Vote of confidence in Anglia Square Mrs Arthur. Plenty of your lot down there ,so you would like to spout out that one

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    PaulH

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Haha this cracked me up!!!!

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    Lora North

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • So Threadneedle Investments have bought it - when you do some digging you see that they are a major shareholder with Tescos... so basically it's going to be a big tesco store. Source : http:www.corporatewatch.org.uk?q=node253%3f

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    norwichjase

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Anglia square and Magdalen Street are important to Norwich, where else would you go to get your belongings back after being burgled?.

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    mr mayhem

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Anglia Square would be the ideal place to re-site the walk in health centre as many of the people walk through the square, look very sickly indeed.

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    John L Norton

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • totally agree with DaisyRoots, I much prefer Anglia Square to the city, and I think some people are just plain old snobs; it has everything you need and far more interesting shops than the same old repetitive (often overpriced) run-of-the-mill stuff in the city, it is also much easier, and cheaper, to park The area is already well used with a greengrocer and a green grocers stall, a butchers, Iceland, Boots and QD, just around the corner is Magdalen Street with many more excellent independent, and different, shops

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    catalonia13

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Knock it down and rebuild it brick for brick in Poland or Lithuania.

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    NigelS

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Good one Mel. The area does have some decent shops, cafes and pubs (Kings Head and the Pargeters are excellent). Also the cinema is good value as well. It is let down by many down at heel shops and cafes and attracts bad elements from here and increasingly from abroad.

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    Steely Dan

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Perhaps these brave or foolhardy investors might like to make another risky purchase and go for Van Wolkswinkel as well ...

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    Mel Lacey

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Vic Sponge: I'd hold my breath if I were you, Anglia Square is a bit pungent.

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    KeithS

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Anglia Square was doomed when the govt abolished all those civil service jobs and thousands of spenders vanished.

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    marty r

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • It's very important any impact on local GP practices is taken into account.Busy,inner-city primary health care services need time to plan and have patients to consider.We've seen recently the threat to the city's Walk-In service and I hope that episode is not repeated here.

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    Peter Watson

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Here we go again, another owner, fresh ideas for how it will look blah blah blah. Just Nuke it !

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    che bramley

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Always feel a bit scared of some of the other shoppers when I go there, it is all very unattractive and is probably what the whole of Norwich will be like if we get 5 years of a Labour government

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    blister

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • it's such a dump, knock it down. Whilst Magdalen St has become a lot better over the past few years to make a more vibrant place, the square never has and never will be nice.

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    Mooseyt4

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Well I hope they see that the area is already well used and has great potential as a walk to or bus to shopping centre -I noticed there is a greengrocer and a green grocers stall and a butcher for instance. And that they realise Magdalen Street is a lure for shoppers from further afield. I am drawn to shop there by the excellent independent fabric shops but the interesting flea market in Looses and some retro and music shops and places to eat are also an attraction. Plus it is usually possible to park at ground level under the flyover or on the Octagon and it is easy to access from the east. The whole area, which is where Norwich started after all, stands a chance of picking up a peg or two and being revitalised and vibrant and a good facility so long as the new does not drive away what it already good.

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    Daisy Roots

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • Given the history of the Square over the past 10 or so years it is easy to be cynical about this latest twist in the saga. Only time will tell but it is at least reassuring that the new owners don't appear to be interested in continuing with the grandiose and totally over the top plans of the previous owner, which were like mooring an oil tanker in a marina.

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    Red Steepler

    Friday, May 30, 2014

  • I wont hold my breath.

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    Vic Sponge

    Friday, May 30, 2014

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

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