Heritage campaigners have called for a ‘drastic rethink’ of a controversial 20-storey ‘mega-structure’ in Norwich ahead of a planning inquiry
SAVE Britain’s Heritage will be urging the planning inspector to throw out the Anglia Square proposals, approved by Norwich City Council in 2018, which includes a 60m-tall tower as part of a £300 million mixed-use scheme for Weston Homes and landowner Columbia Threadneedle.
The inquiry begins today (28 January) into the scheme for 1,250 flats, 11,000m² of shops and offices, a 200-bed hotel and a cinema. It has received more than 700 objections, including two petitions.
Approved at committee by seven votes to five in December 2018, the planning application was called in three months later by then housing secretary James Brokenshire.
A spokesperson for SAVE said: ’We are not against the redevelopment of Anglia Square but this city deserves better. It could be redeveloped in a different way, with low-rise streets and squares, similar in scale to the neighbouring RIBA Stirling Prize-winning Goldsmith Street, which would unlock public benefits without harming Norwich’s historic character.
They added: ’There are no overriding public benefits that could not be provided with a less harmful scheme. A drastic rethink is needed. [We] look forward to putting our case to the planning inspectorate.’
The campaign group has prepared its own visualisation, which it claims shows how the approved development, which had originally been five storeys taller but was trimmed in a bid to appease Historic England, will impact on the city’s skyline (see below).
Norwich after image as prepared by save britain’s heritage
Other objectors to the proposals who are set to be heard by the planning inspectorate this week are The Norwich Society, the Norwich Cycling Campaign and Historic England.
John Neale, Historic England’s East of England planning director added: ‘We believe the proposals for Anglia Square would severely harm the character which makes Norwich such a special place. We hope that the inspector will conclude that they would be wrong for the city and recommend that planning permission is refused.’
In their 2018 recommendations for approval, planning officers argued that the existing shopping centre on the site was outdated and its visible signs of vacancy and dereliction ‘blight the image’ of the city centre and send a negative message to the development sector.
The officers said: ‘The cumulative harm identified is to some extent offset by other beneficial aspects of the development for the historic environment. These benefits have been scarcely acknowledged by Historic England.’
A statement released last week by Weston Homes, which has submitted a 294-page statement of case to the inspectors, said: ’Weston Homes and Columbia Threadneedle will be putting their case for the Anglia Square scheme at the inquiry, with the hope that this major regeneration of the northern city-centre area, which is fully supported by the City Council, can be implemented and act as a catalyst for the surrounding area.’
The inquiry, which is being held at Norwich City Hall, is expected to last four weeks.