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City centre plan could bring 2,500 jobs

PUBLISHED: 07:31 06 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Up to 2500 new jobs could be created on a former printing works in Norwich, if ambitious plans get the go-ahead.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Up to 2500 new jobs could be created on a former printing works in Norwich, if ambitious plans get the go-ahead.

Jarrold is looking to submit multi-million pound proposals for a hotel, offices, and 200 homes on its land at Whitefriars, off Barrack Street.

The company is in advanced talks with officials at government department Defra about moving hundreds of employees to a new £15m office development on the site, while the new hotel would neighbour the Greens Health and Fitness club.

The scheme could also could see 50 1930s council flats demolished, if City Hall agrees later this month to sell its land on an adjoining site.

David Hill, chairman of Jarrold & Sons, said the company was in advanced discussions for a landmark "green" building on the site built to the highest standards of environmental sustainability.

"The new St James Development at Whitefriars will create an exciting new office scheme for Norwich which we hope will encourage occupiers to remain in a vibrant city centre rather than relocate out of town," he said. "It will also modernise and extend the existing affordable housing on Barrack Street.

"We also hope that the development will include a three or four star riverside hotel. We feel the proposals are very good news for Norwich and hope that we will be able to secure planning permission for the scheme later this year."

Hopes are high that if Defra relocated to Whitefriars, the area could become a focal point for sustainable building design - attracting a range of environment organisations such as English Nature, the Environment Agency and even the Broads Authority.

The move could also open up more of the city's Riverside area to the public and kickstart the regeneration of surrounding areas including Magdalen Street and Anglia Square.

The council homes facing demolition would be replaced by 60 new affordable housing association properties, 30pc of the total.

And that could be the first test of the recently signed memorandum of understanding between the new minority Labour administration and the Green Party - which wants at least half of new developments to be low cost homes.

The flats' 45 tenants were yesterday sent letters outlining plans to pay them £4,500 in moving costs if the land was sold. The remaining five leaseholders would be offered full market value for their homes.

Steve Morphew, leader of the council, said Defra would be the anchor tenant in the development.

"If we can get Defra there are other organisations who will want to be close to it and that would give us a significant cluster," he said. "There is going to be a number of spin-off benefits for the Riverside Walk area.

"This is a not really nice part of the city which deserves a bit of money spent on it. We have ambitions to make sure we regenerate all the areas around there."

Kris Reeves, the city council's acting head of strategic housing, said the existing properties failed the decent homes standard and would cost between £500,000 and £750,000 to bring up to scratch.

"That's just the kitchens and bathrooms," she said. "They also need their windows replacing. The 60 affordable units will be of a much higher standard and also be bigger."

She said the council would offer to rehouse all tenants into an area of their choice, including the new properties.

"If the decision is made to go ahead, some of the tenants would probably go quite readily as they have got transfer applications in and they are looking to move away."

Last night a Defra spokeswoman said it was too early to say which branches of the department would move to Whitefriars.

"We can confirm that we are in discussions about a site in Norwich, but unable to confirm the details," she said.

Members of the council's executive are set to consider the plans on June 21.


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