Changing face of city centre area continues as Westlegate flats plan is approved
- Credit: Ingleton Wood
It is one of the areas of the city centre that has seen the biggest transformations in recent memory.
Less than a decade ago Westlegate was one of the busiest one-way traffic routes through the city, with neighbouring streets also laden with cars.
Now, the latest feature in the changing face of this part of the centre has been given the city council's blessing, with plans to build up one side of the street getting committee approval.
Norwich City Council's planning committee has voted in favour of building two storeys above the parade of shops opposite Tesco, consisting of nine flats, in a car-free development.
It is part of an overall scheme for the building, which will see the addition of 69 homes and also make use of the Boar's Head Yard.
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The development will also include cosmetic changes to the front of the building, which will see the concrete struts replaced with brickwork.
Members unanimously voted in favour of the plans, barely pausing to debate the proposals.
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Labour councillor Roger Ryan said: 'I think overall it will improve the look of the building and provide much needed housing in the city centre.'
The scheme is the latest development in a transformation for the area, which in recent years saw the £8m regeneration of Westlegate Tower on the opposite side of the road.
Another multi-million pound scheme also saw the street pedestrianised, along with All Saints Green - a project costing £3.3m.
It has also seen several businesses take on new locations in the area, including Adnams, Warings and Evans cycles.
The homes plan will, however, see the loss of retail space on the street - the empty unit next door to Adnams is to make way for an entrance corridor to the flats.
Mike Stonard, the city council's cabinet member for sustainable and inclusive growth, said: 'Personally, I think the area is a much more pleasant place to be now, and is no longer just an area people pass through.
'It has given it a new cosmopolitan feel and made it an area for Norwich to really be proud of.'
Changes in use
The changing face of the area has seen it not only evolve in appearance, but also in the way it is used.
All Saints Green in particular, once frequently used as a rat run through the city, now has become a popular social lunch spot, or a space for quiet reflection.
The £3.3m pedestrianisation has opened the area up for a variety of other functions as well.
On occasion it provides an outdoor venue for up and coming musicians to showcase their acts, with regular live music performances in the early evenings.
Another new development for the area will see the courtyard of All Saints' Church transformed into a garden celebrating the city's relationship with its international twins.
The centre piece of this garden will be a 10ft high wood and glass sculpture, originally displayed by Norwich In Bloom in the German city of Koblenz during the 2011 Bundesgartenschau.
What you said
People spoken to in the area mostly approved of the changes.
Sue Harvey, 49, said: 'Westlegate's success is really a sign the pedestrianisation of the city centre has worked. It's now a much nicer area with developing businesses that will hopefully see much more footfall.'
Ken Hilden, 80, said: 'I wouldn't say it's much of a shame they're building on top of it - it is a ghastly looking building. The area is much nicer looking now.'
Thomas Davies, 26, said: 'I remember my nan taking me to the old Mecca Bingo when I was younger, so I was a little saddened to hear they tore it down. The area itself will be improved even more by some more young people around here though.'
Hazel Watkins, 84, said: 'I just don't know if Norwich is big enough to have so much of it shut off. It's becoming difficult to drive in now and finding places to park is becoming a real nightmare.'