Anglia Square’s £271m revamp cannot go ahead, says secretary of state
- Credit: Weston Homes
The controversial £271m revamp of Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre cannot go ahead, the secretary of state has ruled.
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick today issued his decision on one of the most contentious – and largest – developments in Norwich for decades.
And, despite a planning inspector saying the scheme should be permitted, Mr Jenrick has refused to grant planning permission.
He disagreed with the recommendation of inspector David Prentis and has said it cannot go ahead. He said the 20-storey tower was of “excessive size in relation to its context”.
He said the massing of the individual blocks and the tower, and the extent to which the height and mass of the proposal would be “uncharacteristic” in the Norwich City Centre Conservation Area and did not fit with policy.
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Mr Jenrick said that the benefits of the scheme were not sufficient to outbalance the identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to heritage assets.
Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said he was “very disappointed” and said it had overturned City Hall’s democratic decision.
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He said: “We’re very disappointed by today’s announcement by the secretary of state.
“This overturns the local democratic decision made by the city council to go ahead with the development as well as the planning inspector’s recommendation to approve it following an extensive public enquiry.
“Not only will it substantially delay progress on a site in desperate need of development, but also make it very unlikely that Norwich will be able to benefit from the £15m of government funds already allocated to it to accelerate development of the site.
“Now, more than ever, we need to be investing and building on sites like these to stimulate the economy and offer jobs and homes to people.
“The developer and council have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we will need to take time to digest today’s decision and work out the next steps.
“This part of the city offers so much potential – but sadly that potential is once again being left unfulfilled.”
But James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall, said: “Having voted against it at planning and co-signed the call-in letter, I am delighted at this outcome.
“Something needs to be done to redevelop Anglia Square, but not this and not without a greater amount of high quality social housing.”
Plans for the shopping centre, lodged by Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes, had been approved by Norwich City Council’s planning committee in 2018.Those plans include more than 1,200 new homes, including within a 20-storey tower, a hotel, cinema, car parks and new shops.
But the proposals attracted fierce criticism, due to the massing and height and its impact on the historic city skyscape, including on Norwich Cathedral.
While City Hall officers had conceded that the revamp scheme would cause harm, they had said that was outweighed by social and economic benefits.
The council’s planning committee voted in favour, by seven votes to five.
However, the matter was called in by the government at the request of opponents, including heritage watchdog Historic England.That call-in triggered a four week planning inquiry into the issues, which was held at City Hall in January and February.
Historic England, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the Norwich Society, the Norwich Cycling Campaign, and the Cathedral Magdalen and St Augustine’s Forum were among objectors.
They sought to persuade the inspector to recommend that the scheme should not be given the green light.
Planning inspector Mr Prentis weighed up the evidence presented at the inquiry and had said the scheme should be given the go-ahead.
He had said it would cause harm to a number of listed buildings, but said: “I have found that the public benefits of the proposal would outweigh the harm”.
Mr Jenrick, had been due to give his decision at the start of September, having considered the planning inspector’s report, but failed to do so - until today, when he disagreed with the inspector.
There is an opportunity for the secretary of state’s decision to be challenged. That would involve an application to the High Court within six weeks, asking for a statutory review under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.