'Soviet communist' - Plans for new homes thrown out

The flat on Hillington Square in King's Lynn, which has been sealed off, and its tenants removed. Pi

A sealed off flat on Hillington Square Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher.

Plans to demolish and rebuild an eyesore block of flats have been rejected after the designs were described as looking “ugly” and “Soviet communist”. 

West Norfolk Council's planning committee met on Monday to discuss plans, submitted by Freebridge Community Housing, to demolish and rebuild five blocks at Hillington Square, King's Lynn. 

Various concerns were raised by councillors and residents, in particular the impact on surrounding buildings and the visual design.

Freebridge Community Housing's head office in Austin Street, King's Lynn. Picture: Chris Bishop

Freebridge wanted to demolish Farrow House, Vicarage House, Chestnut House, Aitken House and Norris House. - Credit: Archant

Anita Carnell, a nearby resident, raised concerns over the impact the development would have on All Saints Church and listed buildings.

“There’s to be heavy site machinery and pile driving for the foundation which will create vibrations," she said. 

"This, in turn, will create major damage to our properties.”  

Theresa Mounting, another resident, argued Hillington Square's original poor design had contributed to issues in the community, including criminal activity, and the new plans seemed to repeat past mistakes.   

West Norfolk council is warning about a tax scam. Picture: Ian Burt

The plans were unanimously rejected by councillors - Credit: IAN BURT

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Ms Mounting described the buildings as reminding her of “Soviet communist blocks” and could impact on residents' legal right to light. 

Concerns were also raised about children’s play space and whether all the buildings had been checked for asbestos.   

Councillor Lesley Bambridge acknowledged the poor state of the existing “pigeon infested” buildings but was shocked at the design and plans for demolition.

Stuart Ashworth, the council's assistant director of planning, stressed Historic England and the conservation officer had no objections to the designs. 

Independent Norfolk county councillor Sandra Squire. Pic: Norfolk Independent Group.

Independent councillor Sandra Squire - Credit: Norfolk Independent Group

Councillor Sandra Squire said: “When I saw the picture of the designs I did wonder if the person who designed this was trying to get us an ugly town award.  

“I suspect that Historic England looked at what was there and said, ‘well, it can’t be any worse than that,’ but clearly it can. 

"We have got an opportunity to create a community here that people will be proud to be a part of." 

A recommendation to reject the plans due to the layout, design and overbearing development was put forward by councillor Anthony Bubb, and was unanimously accepted. 

Speaking after the meeting Freebridge's director of development, Paul Newbold, said they were disappointed by the council's rejection of the plans and they were proud of what they had achieved so far. 

Mr Newbold said the company had invested around £20m into King's Lynn and the remaining work would double that. 

He added: “We will now be taking some time to look in detail at the feedback provided by the planning committee and considering our next steps.” 

Proposed for the site can be viewed on the council's planning portal, reference 20/01166/FM.

How did we get here?

Hillington Square was built between1967 and 1971 following slum clearance and comprised of 320 residential flats and maisonettes, a community centre and a bin store. There was initially a waiting list of people wanting to move there.

Over the years the structures became less attractive and better known for crime and a desperate need of revitalisation. 

In 2010, Freebridge started developing plans for regenerating the site, appointing celebrity designer Wayne Hemingway to the project.

Mr Hemingway said in 2012 that calls to demolish the site was not an affordable option.

Final approval for a redesign given in July 2012, with four blocks refurbished to date.

In 2019 the estate won the regeneration category at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS') East of England Awards night.