Decision on proposed facelift to Norwich’s Castle Mall deferred

Castle Mall artists impression Nov 2013.

Castle Mall artists impression Nov 2013. - Credit: Supplied

Developers said retailers had been put off moving to Norwich's Castle Mall because of its current state, after a decision on a proposed facelift for one of the entrances was deferred by city councillors today.

A new application submitted by the centre's owners, Infrared UK, was discussed by Norwich City Council's planning committee, after a previous application was rejected.

And while the new proposal met with more success councillors were still reluctant to approve the plans, and voted, by eight to two, to defer the application to allow planning officers to meet the applicant again to draw up a solution that was acceptable to both.

After the meeting, Rob Cossey, from the Hark Group, which is the asset manager for Castle Mall, said he was disappointed at the decision.

He said: 'It's not a helpful result. The scheme for the new entrance is massively better than the existing one.

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'We will now have to speak to the planning officers, but it leaves us in limbo. We have had retailers walk away from Castle Mall, because it lacks prominence.

'Bold cities have bold architects, and Castle Mall should not be trapped in the past. We should have made this investment into Castle Mall six to nine months ago.'

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Michael Innes, the Castle Mall's original architect, however, said after the meeting that the new design was inappropriate.

He said: 'It will wear very quickly. It's a fashionable gesture that will look very tired in two years' time.'

At the meeting, Chris Huxtable, from Infrared UK, said Castle Mall needed investment to ensure that Norwich kept its position in the top 10 in the UK as a retail destination.

He said: 'We are proposing to spend £5m at the mall over the next two years. The entrance is well past its sell by date, and it needs and deserves a new face.'

But city councillor Ralph Gayton proposed that a decision should be deferred, and said: 'Elements of this proposal are eminently successful. We should ask the two parties to get together, sort this out amicably, and come back with a proposal that is acceptable to both sides.'

Fellow councillor Stephen Little, however, said he liked the new design, which he said was 'brave and innovative.

'Sometimes we need to be modern and a bit brave in our architecture', he said.

Councillor Paul Neale agreed, adding: 'This fits the bill in my mind.'

However, city councillor Lesley Grahame said the new design included a 'monstrosity' on top, and Sue Sands likened it to a 'giant cheesegrater'.

The new design includes a patterned aluminium façade, designed like a shawl to reflect the city's textile heritage.

Officers at the city council recommended the planning committee turn down the proposal. They said that the new entrance would be a 'discordant' feature, which would change and dilute the existing architectural character of the centre, which is home to 850 jobs.

But centre manager Paul McCarthy wrote to officers and councillors urging them to support it. He said an exhibition about the plans in Castle Mall was viewed by 524 people and of those who responded, 97pc said they supported the changes.

The changes also had support from the Norwich Business Improvement District, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and Mark Skelton, manager of the Boots store and chairman of the Tenants Association.

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