More than 40 new flats to be created in city centre office conversion
PUBLISHED: 10:54 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:54 14 August 2020
More than 40 new flats are to be created in Norwich city centre, after a plan to convert five floors of an office building was given the go-ahead.
Vantage Developments Ltd had asked Norwich City Council for permission to change Vantage House, in Fishers Lane, from an office block into 44 apartments.
City Hall officers used delegated powers to grant prior approval for the scheme - a mixture of 26 one bed and 12 two bed flats, with parking and bike storage in the underground car park.
There were objections from people in nearby Pottergate, who raised concerns about noise and extra traffic, but council officers said: “It is likely that the number of car parking spaces will decrease given the pressure to provide cycle and refuse storage.
“Further, office car parks are likely to generate two traffic movements per space, whereas many residential spaces will generate fewer traffic movements, especially given the site’s sustainable city centre location.”
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Built in the 1960s, the building was once BT’s local headquarters, known as Telephone House. After it was revamped as Vantage House in the early 2000s it used to belong to Norfolk County Council before it was sold.
Because the proposal was to convert offices into residential use, the developers did not need to secure planning permission, but just prior approval.
That meant the only issues the council could consider included the impact on transport, contamination, flooding and noise from neighbours.
The conversion of so many offices into housing by such means has caused concern at City Hall.
The council says the prior approval legislation limits reasons for the council to reject conversions and it cannot consider issues such as protecting employment land or insist on affordable housing.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of the council’s sustainable development panel last month where it was recommended to ask the council’s cabinet to consider an Article 4 direction - which would take away the permitted right to convert offices into flats, mainly within the inner ring road.
Kevin Maguire, Labour’s cabinet member for safe and sustainable city development, said it was important the city centre maintained its vibrancy and role as an economic centre.
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