Case for £271m Anglia Square revamp to get go-ahead is sent to inspector

PUBLISHED: 14:14 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:17 15 August 2019

The Anglia Square plans include a 20-storey tower. Photo: Weston Homes

The Anglia Square plans include a 20-storey tower. Photo: Weston Homes

Weston Homes

The controversial redevelopment of Anglia Square would be “the most significant housing project within the city of Norwich” over the next decade, council bosses have told the inspector who will decide whether it goes ahead.

James Brokenshire, who was communities secretary when the Anglia Square plans were called in. Pic: Rui Vieira/PA WireJames Brokenshire, who was communities secretary when the Anglia Square plans were called in. Pic: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Norwich City Council's planning committee agreed, in December last year, to grant permission to developer Weston Homes for the £271m scheme at Anglia Square.

The scheme would see the shopping centre and neighbouring Sovereign House demolished, replaced with new blocks, including 1,234 homes, a cinema, car parks, a 200-bed hotel and a new home for Surrey Chapel.

Members of City Hall's planning committee voted by seven to five in favour of the scheme, despite hundreds of objections, including from the Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral.

But the matter was called in by then communities secretary James Brokenshire after a request from objectors, including Historic England, which was concerned about the impact of the proposed development, with its 20-storey tower, on Norwich's character.

Anglia Square.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYAnglia Square. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The inquiry over the plans will take place next January and Norwich City Council this week submitted its statement of case to the inspector, in which the council looks to explain and justify its decision to grant permission.

Officers say the site's development would bring new jobs, housing, a boost to the economy, "substantial public benefit" and "environmental enhancements".

The council highlights how the Housing Infrastructure Fund had made £15m available to kick-start the scheme, which it says would get round barriers to getting the site redeveloped and that the scheme would "secure the optimum viable use for the site".

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The council says it recognises that Norwich has a "remarkable historic centre", which would cause harm to heritage assets.

But officers add: "It is the position of the council that there are multiple public benefits associated with the proposal which individually and collectively need to be weighed against the identified harm".

Following the inquiry, the inspector will make a recommendation to the communities secretary as to whether the scheme should be allowed to proceed or not.

The communities secretary can follow that advice, or ignore it.

Watchdog's submission urges rejection

The Anglia Square revamp was slammed by civic watchdog The Norwich Society in its submission to the inquiry.

Setting out its objections to the development, the society said the proposals did not meet a number of government planning guidelines, including those for affordable housing.

Arguing the mix of proposed accommodation was too narrow, the society said the "concentration of flats will neither promote a mixed and balanced community, nor meet the needs of local people" and that the proposed density of dwellings would be "totally out of proportion for Norwich".

It also said the justification for the development's tower block was "absurd".

They said: "The idea that people need a residential tower to orient themselves is absurd: local people will know where they are anyway and visitors will have no idea of the relationship of the tower to where they wish to go."

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