Announcement expected over future of Norwich site earmarked for 670 new homes

An artist's impression of the homes scheme for the Deal Ground and May Gurney sites.

An artist's impression of the homes scheme for the Deal Ground and May Gurney sites. - Credit: Supplied

An announcement is due within months on the future of one of the biggest derelict sites in Norwich, where work on 670 homes has not started, despite permission being granted three years ago.

Council bosses have confirmed that discussions have been held over the fate of the Deal Ground, which one councillor once said he 'wouldn't put tuppence' on a bet that work would ever take place.

And calls have been made for a relaxation of guidelines on what should happen at a second vacant site.

Campaigners against controversial proposals for an energy park at the Utilities site want the council's local plan to be changed, so a solar farm project might be able to take the place of the power station which had been proposed for the land.

Question marks currently hang over what will happen at both the Deal Ground and the Utilities site.

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Both riverside locations, between Thorpe Hamlet and Trowse, are considered to be major strategic sites and Norwich City Council has been keen to see new life breathed into them.

In 2013, Serruys Property Company was given outline permission for up to 670 homes at the Deal Ground site.

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But three years down the line and work has yet to start on the £110m scheme, with a spokeswoman for Norwich City Council saying the authority was aware that talks had taken place over the site's future.

She said: 'The council is aware of ongoing discussions in relation to this matter and is hopeful of an announcement being made in the autumn.' We contacted planning consultants Lanpro Services, which had acted as the agent when planning permission for the site was secured, but did not get a response.

Trevor Lewis, whose Stoke Holy Cross ward on South Norfolk council includes Trowse Newton, said: 'I don't know what's happening there, but I had heard developers had been looking at it and had not been able to put together a financial case which would give the landowners enough reward.

'It is an interesting one because that's 600 to 700 homes which are an important part of future plans for the area.

'I think that the Deal Ground and the Utilities Site are in somebody's 'too difficult' box.'

Mr Lewis said he suspected people in Trowse would be quite happy if the Deal Ground remained undeveloped, particularly with residents opposing other homes plans in the village.

Meanwhile, the city council also remains keen for the Utilities Site not to remain derelict.

The application for the £325m Generation Park development was withdrawn last month amid struggles to secure investment.

The project had been due to include a straw pellet-burning plant, 120 new homes, student accommodation, an education centre, a research base, 11 acres of parkland, plus new cycle routes and walkways.

But Norwich Powerhouse, set up to oversee the creation of Generation Park, revealed at the end of November it was struggling to secure investment. A Company Voluntary Arrangement was put in place to repay £3m to creditors. Mystery backers were then announced. But efforts to progress the planning application got no further and the scheme was withdrawn.

However, Prof Trevor Davies, of Norwich Powerhouse, said he hoped a new application could be made 'within months'.

A spokeswoman for the city council said: 'The council remains keen to work with relevant landowners and developers to bring forward proposals for the land.'

But the project's opponents Generation Park Residents say it is time to scrap that proposal.

Conrad Jones, from the group, said the council should consider changing the local plan, to make it simpler for the whole site to become a solar farm.

A crowdfunding website has been set up to try to raise money to test the viability of such a scheme.

Mr Jones said: 'The advantages of that is it would be clean and green, with no emissions or toxic waste. What we don't want is this site empty for another 13 years.'

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