Shop bosses fear they have been handed a "stay of execution" after the shock collapse of the £300m Anglia Square revamp.

City folk were left gobsmacked on Tuesday when developers Weston Homes announced the plans for up to 1,100 homes had been scrapped - pointing at delays, inflation, rising costs and government policies. 

Eastern Daily Press: The proposed plans for the Anglia Square redevelopmentThe proposed plans for the Anglia Square redevelopment (Image: Weston Homes)

After years of waiting for the rebuild, the news arrived unexpectedly for shopkeepers who were already unsure about their future, with one saying: "We had no idea.

"We've actually been looking at a new site because we were under the impression they were going to demolish it.

"So I'm surprised to hear that."

Eastern Daily Press: The Anglia Square precinctThe Anglia Square precinct (Image: Denise Bradley)

It was at this point a security guard stepped in and asked our reporter to leave the shopping precinct due to it being private land.

A supervisor at the nearby Norwich Men's Shed - which has recently clubbed together with other local organisations to find a new home - warned the news could mark a "stay of execution" for local business.

"I'm shocked and surprised," he said. "We hadn't heard anything about this.

Eastern Daily Press: The news has been met with a mixed reactionThe news has been met with a mixed reaction (Image: Denise Bradley)

"We've been looking for new premises because of the plans to demolish the site.

"I think quite a few businesses in the area have handed in their notices as well.

Eastern Daily Press: The site has previously been described by locals as an eyesoreThe site has previously been described by locals as an eyesore (Image: Denise Bradley)

"Something needs to be done with Anglia Square and I'd like to see it be redeveloped.

"I'm not against housing, but it's also essential we keep retail and businesses in the city centre."

Weston Homes said it had been forced to cancel the shopping centre - owned by investment firm Columbia Threadneedle - redevelopment because a "multitude of issues" meant it was not financially viable.

Eastern Daily Press: Weston Homes said the project was no longer viableWeston Homes said the project was no longer viable (Image: Denise Bradley)

Developers had finally secured permission for the redevelopment in April 2023, after years of planning negotiations.

One member of the public - who did not wish to be named - was overjoyed at the news.

"They've pulled it again? Thank goodness for that!" he said.

Eastern Daily Press: Some locals welcomed the newsSome locals welcomed the news (Image: Denise Bradley)

"Anglia Square needs to be redeveloped and something needs to happen.

"But it needs to be in keeping with Norwich and these plans were totally out of character with the area."

Boots had recently announced plans to close its store in the precinct and several other businesses had closed or moved to a new home in anticipation of the rebuild - with demolition work previously due to begin at the start of this year.

The Labour-led city council's decision to exempt Weston Homes from paying £2.3m of a tax on development - known as the Community Infrastructure Levy - had caused controversy.

Chris Trenerry, who was in the city with his wife Lyn, said: "Letting the developers off the hook with tax was totally wrong and we need to build more social and affordable housing.

Eastern Daily Press: Locals Chris and Lyn TrenerryLocals Chris and Lyn Trenerry (Image: Newsquest)

"This has been limping along new for a while now and these plans were out of character with the area.

"I'm not sad to see the proposals fall through and I'm also not surprised.

"Anglia Square needs redeveloping but the council should look to do this themselves a bit at a time rather than allowing a developer to come in and make money out of it."

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Leroy Barrett, owner of Mercury Communications in Magdalen Street, echoed this message.

"I'm not surprised at all," he said.

Eastern Daily Press: Shop bosses have warned the news could mean a stay of execution for some local businessesShop bosses have warned the news could mean a stay of execution for some local businesses (Image: Denise Bradley)

"I'm not against redeveloping it because it feels like Anglia Square has suffered from a managed decline.

"But this has been going on for a long time and a lot of shops around here expected this to happen.

"And to be honest, traffic is already a nightmare around here and these plans would have made that worse."


Sighs could be heard across the Fine City as news broke that the £300m project to rebuild Anglia Square had collapsed.

After more than 20 years of discussions and negotiations, it seemed the long-awaited breakthrough had finally been secured last April when planning permission was given to Weston Homes.

That in itself had been a roller-coaster journey that had involved previous plans spiked by the government late in the process, due to rows over the prominence of a flat tower.

Eastern Daily Press: The entrance to Anglia SquareThe entrance to Anglia Square (Image: Denise Bradley)

Weston has decided to call it quits though, saying they have lost £7.5m and lost faith in the viability of the project due to a "multitude of issues" including problems with government policy on planning.

Housing developers are not charities, of course. They are in the market of making profit and the "deep regret" expressed by the Weston Homes charity appears genuine, after having to put so much effort into getting to this stage.

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Yet for the people of Norwich, attentions swiftly turn to what happens next and the difficulty that the city council now faces in bringing a prominent area back to life.

Many who frequent Anglia Square are keen to defend the community spirit that persists there and the importance of the shops in the precinct to those on lower incomes.

Eastern Daily Press: The future of Anglia Square remains uncertainThe future of Anglia Square remains uncertain (Image: Denise Bradley)

It is hard to avoid the tired look to parts of the area though, with a multi-storey car park that has been closed for more than a decade, a disused cinema that has had problems with leaking pipework and the huge Sovereign House in a dilapidated state since it closed in the mid-1990s.

Yet the sudden nature of this collapse has created a new layer of frustration, with some businesses having already left the area or being in the process of looking for a new home, as demolition work was meant to be imminent.

Whichever way you look at the situation, it is a mess - that needs urgent attention.