The developer behind the city's largest building project has been spared paying £2.3m for community projects for the surrounding area.  

The Labour-led Norwich City Council's cabinet has approved a community infrastructure levy (CIL) exemption for the redevelopment of Anglia Square.  

CIL is a tax on housing developers with the money going towards facilities like playgrounds, schools, libraries and allotments for people moving in to the new properties. 

The Anglia Square plans will see 1,100 homes built across 12 blocks, ranging in height from two to eight storeys. 

But the developer, Weston Homes, has said it would not be economically viable to continue with the project if they have to pay the tax.

Eastern Daily Press: Anglia Square in NorwichAnglia Square in Norwich (Image: George Thompson, LDR)

The exemption covers the first two phases of the new development and is worth £2,316,769.92. The total levy for all four phases is expected to be around £7.7m.

The CIL relief has been controversial, with campaign groups objecting to the loss of cash for much-needed infrastructure.  

The cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening at which it was approved saw a lengthy debate, with the opposition Green group and the Norwich Renters Collective and Norwich over the Wensum Neighbourhood Forum community groups given special dispensation to speak.

Objectors questioned what projects would not be funded as a result of the loss of the CIL, where the council will find the resources to pay for the infrastructure to support the additional 1,100 homes and if the cabinet had been “whipped” to approve the decision. 

Eastern Daily Press: Labour city councillor Ian StutelyLabour city councillor Ian Stutely (Image: Ian Stutely)

Criticism also came from Labour's own benches, with Ian Stutely, member for Town Close, branding the CIL relief a "tax break".

He said anyone voting for it could “never consider themselves progressive".

Mike Stonard, leader of the city council, said regulations do not require them to look into the effect of “lost CIL” and that the majority of the cash is pooled and shared with Broadland and South Norfolk Councils and would not necessarily have gone on projects in the Anglia Square area. 

He also said the area would benefit in other ways, with the developer promising highway improvements as well as a new “public realm scheme” under the flyover and a community hub – similar to a village hall, with café and bookable meeting rooms. 

Eastern Daily Press: Mike Stonard, leader of Norwich City Council (Image: Brittany Woodman/ Archant)Mike Stonard, leader of Norwich City Council (Image: Brittany Woodman/ Archant) (Image: Brittany Woodman/ Archant)

He insisted that “no member of the cabinet has been whipped” and the decision was “open and transparent”. 

The relief was approved by the cabinet in a five-to-one vote. 

The only member to vote against was Cate Oliver, a councillor for Town Close. 

This is the only project to have ever been awarded a CIL exemption in the city. 

Only one previous project has been considered for one and that was an earlier bid to redevelop Anglia Square. 

Speaking after the meeting Mr Stonard said it was “really, really, brilliant news for the city”. 

He said: “We can now proceed to redevelop a stalled eyesore site which has lain derelict for over 20 years and has become a blight on the north of the city centre.”

Eastern Daily Press: Anglia Square Norwich, Community Hub (Image: Weston Homes)Anglia Square Norwich, Community Hub (Image: Weston Homes) (Image: Weston Homes)

Mr Stonard said it was one of the first views of the city for many people visiting Norwich and it had become “an acute embarrassment”.

“Everyone who really cares about the fine city will be over the moon," he added.

“Today’s decision means we can now start to breathe life into this sad, neglected and desolate eyesore."

Eastern Daily Press: Jamie Osborn, Green group councillor Jamie Osborn, Green group councillor (Image: Archant)

But the Green group's Jamie Osborn, councillor for Mancroft, said: "Norwich has lost out with this decision.  

“People living and working around Anglia Square deserve decent infrastructure - green space, safe and well-lit streets, access to community centres. But instead of paying their share towards that, Weston Homes are pocketing millions of pounds of extra cash as a public subsidy.  

"The process for this decision was highly questionable and will leave many people asking whether the council really represents their interests or that of big developers."