Anglia Square: ‘Norwich spared most monstrous carbuncle that ever threatened to deface an English cathedral city’
- Credit: Weston Homes
The rejection of the £271m revamp of Anglia Square has spared Norwich from having “the most monstrous carbuncle that ever threatened to deface an English cathedral city”, according to campaigners.
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday went against a planning inspector’s recommendation that the revamp should go ahead and announced he was rejecting it.Plans for the shopping centre, lodged by Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes, had been approved by Norwich City Council’s planning committee in 2018.Those plans include more than 1,200 new homes, including within a 20-storey tower, a hotel, cinema, car parks and new shops.But the proposals attracted fierce criticism, due to the massing and height and its impact on the historic city skyscape, including on Norwich Cathedral.And Mr Jenrick said the massing of the individual blocks and the tower, and the extent to which the height and mass of the proposal would be “uncharacteristic” in the Norwich City Centre Conservation Area and did not fit with policy.He said that the benefits of the scheme were not sufficient to outbalance the identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to heritage assets.Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which argued against the scheme during a planning inquiry held earlier this year, said: “The secretary of state has repelled the vandals at the city gate. Norwich has been spared the most monstrous carbuncle that ever threatened to deface an English cathedral city.“The promoters of this scheme, Norwich City Council, Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes must now look at alternatives, notably the excellent scheme by Ash Sakula architects commissioned by Historic England.“The city council must also note Mr Jenrick’s concern at the number of single aspect flats being proposed – this is rabbit hutch housing that is completely unacceptable.”Historic England, which had requested the matter be called in to the government, also welcomed the rejection.John Neale, head of development advice for Historic England said: “We are pleased that the secretary of state has not granted permission for proposals which we have always argued would be highly damaging for Norwich.“The future of Anglia Square remains to be resolved, and we are keen to work with the city council and community to help secure a scheme which would renew this area in a way which both benefits the community and reinforces Norwich’s exceptional historic character.”Developers Weston Homes have signalled they intend to challenge Mr Jenrick’s refusal in the High Court.
Chairman and chief executive Bob Weston said Mr Jenrick had “gone against local democracy and the recommendations of a public inquiry, choosing to side with the NIMBY brigade who would rather see Norwich city centre die than support a future for the city’s economy”.
But Historic England said: “We’re disappointed that Weston Homes would take this view. Opposition to their scheme came from a wide range of people in Norwich and beyond who thought that the development was harmful to Norwich’s historical character and that something better was possible.”