Campaigners hope Anglia Square call-in will lead to improved scheme
PUBLISHED: 16:10 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:10 22 March 2019
Archant Norfolk 2018
Campaigners against the £271m revamp of Norwich's Anglia Square have said they hope the government's decision to intervene could lead to a more acceptable scheme coming forward.
A planning inquiry into Norwich City Council’s decision to grant permission to developers Weston Homes for the redevelopment of the shopping complex has been triggered after communities secretary James Brokenshire ‘called-in’ the matter.
That will see public hearings in Norwich, which will help an inspector make a recommendation on whether the scheme should be allowed to go ahead or not. The final decision will rest with the communities secretary.
The city council and developers said they were disappointed at the call-in. Weston Homes said there would be “a period of reflection and consultation”.
The call-in was triggered by Historic England, but other objectors included the Norwich Society, the St Augustine’s Community Together Residents’ Association, the Cathedral Magdalen and St Augustine’s Forum and the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral.
Concerns raised included the impact of the development, with its 20-storey tower, on the character of Norwich.
Officers at City Hall had said it would cause harm, but that was outweighed by economic benefits.
The Very Rev Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich Cathedral, said: “We are pleased this is being re-examined and we hope Anglia Square might be developed in a way which is good for the area and for the whole of Norwich.”
Stuart McLaren, from the St Augustine’s Community Together Residents’ Association, said: “I’m hoping the inspector will come to a decision that it is not sustainable and the developers will come back with a new plan.
“There is a kind of attitude that we’re against development and just want things to stay as they are, but that’s not the case.
“The vast majority of us understand Anglia Square is past its sell by date and want development, but without losing what is good about the area - the diversity and sense of community.”
And former Norwich North Labour MP Ian Gibson, who had objected to the scheme, said: “It gives the public a real opportunity to play the major role in determining what’s needed in this part of Norwich.”
The plans would see the shopping centre and neighbouring Sovereign House demolished.
The buildings would be replaced with new blocks, including 1,234 new homes, a leisure quarter with a cinema, car parks, a 200-bed hotel, the tower block and a new home for Surrey Chapel.
But the proposal had been controversial. The city council received 939 comments on the original proposals and the revised plans - which included the tower’s height being cut from 25 storeys to 20 storeys.
Of those who submitted comments during the planning process, 767 objected to the plans and 120 supported them.
There was also anger that, of the homes, only 120 would be affordable. That is below the council’s target, but the developers said more would render the scheme unviable.
The applicants had also said the scheme would be rendered unviable if they were charged an estimated £8.8m community infrastructure levy - money developers contribute to a cash pot for infrastructure, such as roads and schools.
Norwich City Council agreed last November to bring in a policy allowing an exemption to that levy, although An exemption decision specifically would have to be made by the authority’s planning committee.
The council had secured more than £12.2m from the government to help get the site unlocked - to help pay for demolition.
However, the city council has warned the call-in means it is now “very unlikely” Norwich will be able to benefit from that money.