The controversial redevelopment of Anglia Square - a scheme two decades in the making - could finally get the go-ahead next week, with officials recommending councillors approve the project. 

The £280m proposal, which would see 1,100 homes built at the eyesore site, will go before Norwich City Council’s planning committee. 

Developer Weston Homes also wants to construct 8,000 square meters of commercial space, a community hub and 450 car parking spaces on the land.

City Halls planning officials have recommended the scheme be approved, ahead of the meeting on Thursday. 

The main site is currently occupied by the Anglia Square shopping centre; Sovereign House, once home to Her Majesty’s Stationery Office; and Gildengate House, a former office block.

Gildengate House is currently used as a temporary studio space by artists while Sovereign House has been unused for many years and has fallen into disrepair. 

Eastern Daily Press: Sovereign HouseSovereign House (Image: Newsquest)

City Hall’s planning officials have described the scheme as one of the “most significant regeneration opportunities in the city and among the council’s “most important priorities”. 

They branded the site as “tired and outdated” with Sovereign House called “degraded” and “riddled with asbestos”.

They added: “Out of hours, the centre is unused, unwelcoming, unsightly, and attracts anti-social behaviour and heightened levels of crime.” 

Plans to redevelop the site have been in the works since 2001, when it was owned by Quintain Estates.

Eastern Daily Press: How Anglia Square looked in the 1980sHow Anglia Square looked in the 1980s (Image: Archant)Over the years, various proposals have been put forward for the site.

Work looked set to get under way in 2018, when councillors approved a contentious scheme that included a 20-storey tower block. 

But following massive objections from locals and heritage bodies, in 2020 the then secretary of state, Robert Jenrick, halted the plans, insisting the size was "excessive".

Since then, the proposals have been significantly reduced in scope, with 150 homes, 3,000sqm of commercial space, as well as a cinema, multi-storey car park and hotel all cut.

The height of buildings will also not exceed eight storeys. 

Eastern Daily Press: The plans for Anglia Square previously included a 20-storey tower but that has now been cutThe plans for Anglia Square previously included a 20-storey tower but that has now been cut (Image: Weston Homes)

While approval of the last scheme was called “finely balanced”, officials insist the situation now was “more heavily weighted towards an approval”. 

They argued redevelopment will offer “significant benefits to this part of the city centre” and draw more investment into Norwich. 

While it is hoped the reduction in building height will address the issues with the previous application, concerns continue to be raised. 

Of the 72 letters written to the planning committee ahead of the meeting, 46 were in objection, 15 were in support and 11 were neutral.

Concerns raised include whether there is enough public open greenspace, whether demolition of buildings is necessary, and accusations that there has been little regard for the historic character of the city.

But supporters argue the area is an eyesore that needs redeveloping.

They say the project has been in the pipeline for far too long and residents should not have to put up with “abandoned and rotting buildings” any longer.  

They also said the revised plans are an improvement over the previous scheme. 

Objections have also come from Churches Conservation Trust, the Norfolk Gardens Trust, Historic England, Norwich Cathedral and the Norfolk Historic Building Trust. 

Concerns have also been raised about whether Weston Homes will pay the £7,670,421 of community infrastructure levy (CIL) normally expected of developers

The levy is a charge on development intended to support local infrastructure. 

The developer has confirmed it will be applying for CIL relief if its application is approved.

Recommended approval, officials said: “The steady deterioration in the appearance of the site and the condition of Sovereign House and the multi-storey car park, in particular, makes the case for redevelopment even stronger now.”