£45m revamp to transform former Aviva towers in Norwich city centre into flats for 700 students gets go-ahead

An artist's impression of what the revamp St Stephens Towers could look like. The developers have su

An artist's impression of what the revamp St Stephens Towers could look like. The developers have subsequenly reduced the proposed height of the towers. Pic: Crown Student Living. - Credit: Crown Student Living

A £45m revamp to turn two huge tower blocks in the heart of Norwich into student flats has been given the go-ahead, with councillors hoping that could free up housing in other parts of the city.

The former Norwich Union buildings on St Stephens Street, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The former Norwich Union buildings on St Stephens Street, Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

St Stephens Towers, formerly offices for Aviva, will become homes for more than 700 students after members of Norwich City Council's planning committee granted permission to developers Crown Student Living.

City Hall officers had previously warned developers they were on the brink of recommending the revamp of the buildings, above and behind shops in St Stephens Street, should be turned down.

Officers said the plan did not meet the ambitions in the authority's blueprint for the development of the area, particularly for a fully accessible route to the bus station.

The developers said that was not economically viable, although a separate application could yet see a route created through the back door of the empty BHS store.


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But the developers did make a number of amendments to the overall project, including reducing the height of the towers and cutting the number of beds from 742 to 702 and officers recommended approval.

The proposal was unanimously approved.

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Labour's Keith Driver, chairman of the committee, said it would boost the city's shops and pubs - and could lead to homes currently rented to students coming back on the market.

He said: 'I think it will bring the area up. I think it will be good for the students, good for the UEA and good for people in university and Bowthorpe wards, where you get houses of multiple occupation.

'I think students would rather go in these flats than pay to live with seven other people, so I think it could bring more houses into the market. It's a win-win for Norwich.'

He said, however, that he was disappointed that the dedicated thoroughfare through to the bus station had not been created through the scheme.

Liberal Democrat councillor James Wright said: 'Its an excellent scheme which will bring much needed life and vitality back into part of the city.'

Green councillor Simeon Jackson said he supported the scheme, but warned the increase in that sort of accommodation in the city centre would inevitably put pressure on infrastructure.

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