Revamp of Castle Mall in Norwich revealed
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A revamp is on the cards for Norwich's Castle Mall after plans were lodged to transform the main entrance to the shopping centre.
The owners of Castle Mall have submitted plans with Norwich City Council to breathe new life into the Back Of The Inns entrance to the complex.
It would see the gable at the first floor and above removed and replaced with a new three-storey facade, with a clear glazed screen, stretching from the tower across to above the entrance with Hawkin's Bazaar.
That would mean the steps which lead to the mall's entrance can be removed and replaced with a ramp. Two columns which are currently in the entrance would also be removed.
That would allow 'an unhindered route through to the entrance doors and shopping centre', according to the architects behind the proposed changes.
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The plans have been submitted by Infrared UK Retail, which owns Castle Mall, and according to documents lodged at City Hall, the changes would lead to 'a significantly enhanced shopping environment' within the shopping centre.
Those documents, drawn up by architects Benoy and agents GL Hearn, state that the current structure overhangs the entrance, 'creating a low and dark appearance with little invitation to enter the building.'
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They say the current gable has glass which cannot be seen through, while the new-look glazed screen would make the mall more inviting.
New signs saying Castle Mall would be put up as part of the changes - on the tower to the right of the entrance and above the new glazed screen.
The plans would also see a small extension to the retail unit at the left of the entrance, which is currently occupied by Hawkin's Bazaar.
The site falls within the St Stephens Conservation area, but the supporting documents submitted with the planning application, state that, although contemporary in feel, the changes would enhance the visual appearance of the site and are consistent with the character of the conservation area.
A spokesman for Castle Mall said: 'One of the key objectives of this planning application is to make the centre more attractive and visible to all our customers.
'Bringing forward the entrance in line with the buildings either side, along with the new glazed screen above the doors, will lighten the entrance as well as making it much more inviting.
'This is an exciting development for Castle Mall and highlights the new owners drive and determination to invest money in to improving our shopping centre.'
The proposal has been welcomed as a boost for the city. Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: 'This investment will help to balance the footfall within the city centre and bring more people to where the small independent businesses are within the city.
'The key footfall is near St Stephens Street and in front of Marks and Spencers, but having the Castle Mall refurbished will bring visitors further down the city towards London Street and Back Of The Inns, which can only be beneficial for the economy.
'Norwich is pulling in investment at a time when people just aren't investing, which shows just how strong the area is
'Meanwhile, the fact that we have a strong retail offering is also good for Norfolk businesses because when you are trying to recruit people to this area, it was is one of the things people look for.'
Stefan Gurney, director of Norwich Business Improvement District, said: 'It is key for us to see continued investment from businesses in the city centre.
'What they have realised is that it is beneficial to make the entrance more open to the customers, and more visible, which help make it a focal point for the area.'
And Adrian Fennell, partner at chartered surveyors Roche, said it made sense to make the changes. He said: 'At the moment, the frontage is quite austere because it was designed to reflect the castle.
'It is heavy with darkened bricks and the entrance to the old Virgin Megastore site is poor. The plans will fundamentally make the mall more appealing.
'Infrared have now got the ability to invest more into the Castle Mall and it needs money invested in order to bring it up to speed and maintain standards.
'The modernisation is the way to pull people in and make it more attractive – and that is great news for Norwich.'
The application is likely to be discussed at a meeting of Norwich City Council's planning committee in the coming months.