1,250-home Norwich tower approval prompts Historic England anger

Historic England has called for government intervention after Norwich City Council approved plans for a 1,250-home, 20-storey mixed use scheme, which the heritage watchdog warned could cause "severe harm" to the city's character.

Anglia Square: 20-storey residential tower approved in Norwich
Anglia Square: 20-storey residential tower approved in Norwich

At a meeting last night, the authority’s planning applications committee voted in favour of the redevelopment of the city centre shopping precinct Anglia Square by developer Weston Homes.

It would be replaced by 1,250 homes, 11,000 square metres of shops and commercial space, a replacement cinema, a multi storey car park and a hotel.

A report on the hybrid application by planning officers said: "The £270 million investment will enhance the physical appearance, the retail and leisure function and overall vibrancy of the site; create a new residential quarter at Anglia Square which will have good connectivity to the existing surrounding community, and boost the city’s housing supply and confidence in the northern city centre as a location for wider re- development."

However, the plans to redevelop the 1960s and 1970s-built shopping centre were bitterly opposed by heritage groups, and the application attracted 767 letters in opposition to the scheme.

Government agency Historic England said the height of the proposed tower would result in severe harm to Norwich’s historic character and the Norwich city centre conservation area in which it is situated.

In its response to the application, it said that "the importance of the designated heritage assets whose significance would be harmed by the development rather than conserved could scarcely be greater".

It said that it now intends to refer the case to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's National Planning Casework Unit and request that it be called in for determination by the secretary of state.

Campaign body SAVE Britain’s Heritage said that the proposals "would cause substantial harm to the city of Norwich and its designated and undesignated heritage assets".

In addition, the Norwich Society said the scheme "risks turning Norwich into yet another clone high-rise city, damaging its attractiveness for those who live and work here, for visitors, and for specialist and skilled staff considering moving to the city."

However, council planners said that national and local policy is "strongly permissive" of the principle of the redevelopment of Anglia Square, and that the scheme could bring substantial economic, social and environmental benefits.

It said "a compelling case has been made to justify the inclusion of the tower notwithstanding the harm to heritage assets that will occur", and that it would not set a precedent for tall buildings in the medieval city.

The council accepted the developer’s argument that the scheme would only be viable if it provided just 10 per cent of the new homes as affordable, well below the council’s policy requirement of 33 per cent.

Weston Homes is also applying for the council to exempt the scheme – under a new policy adopted by the council last month - from the £8.8m of community infrastructure levy payments that would be due.

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