PRESS RELEASE: SAVE unveils new conservation-led vision for Anglia Square
11th July 2022
SAVE Britain’s Heritage is today publishing exciting alternative proposals for Anglia Square in Norwich, designed to show how a conservation-led scheme could reverse the damage of the 1960s and create an attractive and vibrant neighbourhood in the medieval heart of the city.
The new plans outline how Anglia Square, an 11-acre site that has long been a gaping wound in the otherwise remarkably well-preserved city centre, could be transformed for the good.
SAVE’s vision, commissioned in response to new and still damaging plans for the site submitted by Weston Homes in April, is to propose a more sympathetic, contextual and lower-rise development based around streets.
Designed by award-winning architects Ash Sakula, the majority of homes proposed in our vision would be four storeys or less, laid out with the intention of building back the historic street pattern which was ripped apart in the 1960s.
Our vision proposes 773 new homes, all dual-aspect and with generous private amenity space and direct access to outdoor space at street level. The majority would be 2-bed apartments, designed to address the city council’s independently assessed housing need for family homes in this part of the city. The plans also provide continued accommodation for local crafts charity The Men’s Shed, as well as a 200 sqm community hall and 48 new workshops and artists’ studios. Space is also provided for local shops and a supermarket.
Our alternative vision builds on earlier plans, also designed by Ash Sakula and commissioned by Historic England, which were presented at the public inquiry into Weston Homes' previous proposals for the site in 2020.
The vision would also retain the cluster of historic buildings around Pitt Street at the southwestern corner of Anglia Square which remarkably survived both Second World War bombing and the area’s major redevelopment in the 1960s. These buildings, three of which have been submitted to Historic England for potential listing, include what is, excitingly, the recently identified site (and potential remains) of the 11th-century Anglo-Saxon church of St Olave’s.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “The vision we are unveiling today shows there is an alternative to the plans Weston Homes have submitted. Norwich does not have to settle for identikit blocks with dark, one-bed flats. We are proposing a new human-scaled neighbourhood of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes, all dual-aspect with private outdoor space, community facilities and local shops – spaces whose characterful streets would be uniquely Norwich.”
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “Any Anglia Square development must respect the scale of this most historic cathedral city. The SAVE scheme will heal a hideous wound in the city fabric re-establishing the traditional pattern of streets and introducing green spaces and secluded gardens and terraces for the residents.”
Robert Sakula, founding partner at Ask Sakula architects, says: “In the 1960s Norwich took a wrong turning in the redevelopment of Anglia Square. Now, in 2022, it can either repeat that mistake for a second time, or put it right by repairing and reconnecting Anglia Square with its surroundings.”
Michael Jordan, chair of the Sustainable Planning and Transport Committee, Norwich Society, says: “We welcome this initiative, a potentially exciting opportunity and alternative vision that should be given serious consideration in the future development of Anglia Square.”
Julie Engall, director of Mills Knight Estate and Letting Agents in Norwich, says: “This scheme is very welcome. The housing mix and amenity space is just what the market wants - with each property having its own garden or roof terrace, which is so important, and a much more balanced residential mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom properties - not just one-bedroom apartments.”
Our principal objection to the new planning application is to the scale and bulk of the proposed blocks – some as high as eight storeys – which we believe will cause substantial harm to this part of the City Centre Conservation Area which is predominantly characterised by two- and three-storey buildings.
Weston Homes' proposal is for a vastly out-of-scale scheme that would overwhelm the medieval city centre with 14 large blocks containing 1,100 flats, most of them one-bed and half of them single-aspect with windows only on one side.
In 2020 SAVE Britain’s Heritage fought and won a major planning battle alongside Historic England and the Norwich Society against an earlier, deeply unpopular scheme proposed by Weston Homes which would have seen a 20-storey tower break the city’s low-rise skyline of spires and civic landmarks. Those proposals were refused by the Secretary of State.
We continue to support the redevelopment of Anglia Square but believe this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to repair the mistakes of the 1960s – and that Weston Homes’ damaging and dominant proposals fail to offer what Norwich deserves.
This proposal has been developed by SAVE and Ash Sakula Architects to give a sense of what is possible. If we are given the chance to refine the project we will carry out a further round of stakeholder engagement.
Historic England and the Norwich Society have both submitted strongly worded objections to the new proposals.
A decision is expected from Norwich City Council Planning Authority in Autumn 2022.
Notes to editors:
1. For more information and images contact Benedict Oakley: firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7253 3500.
2. See here for SAVE's alternative vision for Anglia Square, designed by Ash Sakula Architects.
3. See here for our recent press release on our objection to the plans for Anglia Square.
4. See here for our press release on the listing applications for three buildings on the site.
5. SAVE Britain's Heritage is a strong, independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.