SAVE gives evidence against 20-storey Norwich Tower
6 February 2020
SAVE Britain’s Heritage has given evidence against the 20-storey tower block proposed for the medieval heart of Norwich during the opening week of a public inquiry examining the future of Anglia Square in the northern city centre.
With heritage impact at the forefront of the inquiry agenda, SAVE's key witness Alec Forshaw argued that the excessive scale of the proposed scheme would cause substantial harm to the city's historic Central Conservation Area, and that Anglia Square deserves to be redeveloped in a different, less harmful way. Attention was drawn to a vision by architects Ash Sakula commissioned by Historic England, which showed how Anglia Square could be redeveloped around low-rise streets and squares that are characteristic of many creative quarters emerging in cities across the UK.
In his opening evidence Alec Forshaw told the inquiry that “in terms of its surviving medieval fabric and its largely intact medieval street plan in addition to its magnificent cathedral, Norwich is supreme. Therefore, when considering the level of significance to be afforded to Norwich City Centre and the numerous other highly graded designated heritage assets that lie within it, the city merits comparison with other great cathedral cities in northern Europe.”
Alec Forshaw reinstated SAVE’s view that the quantum of harm posed by the current scheme to Norwich’s unique historic fabric and character would not be outweighed by other purported benefits. He went on to state SAVE’s agreement with Norwich City Council’s own description of the proposals, set out in their committee report approving the scheme in December 2018, as “looming in a disturbing way”. Alec Forshaw argued that if built, this development would become “a false gateway” into the medieval city, with visitors to central Norwich greeted by a 12-storey hotel and 20-storey tower block of ‘landmark’ quality, conversely described by the Council as “lumpen”.
SAVE was one of four parties who gave evidence against the proposed scheme during the opening week, including local Civic Society The Norwich Society and the government's own heritage advisers Historic England.
Giving his evidence the preceding day, John Neale, Planning Director for Historic England’s Eastern Region said “the scheme risked damaging a city which should be considered a 'collective work of art', one thousand years in the making.”
Addressing a fundamental concern by those opposed to the scheme, John Neale stated that Historic England was "concerned with both the tower and the mass of the development", the combination of which "would make a fundamental change in the intensity of buildings in this part of Norwich."
Following a full house on the opening day, twenty six members of the public have registered to give their own evidence against the scheme at the inquiry, adding their voices to the 140 who have written to the Planning Inspectorate to register their opposition to the current proposals since the inquiry was announced.
Entering its second week, the inquiry will now examine evidence on a range of topics raised by the controversial scheme over the coming 3 weeks, including:
- Viability – 5 February
- Transport – 6 February
- Housing and Economic Development – 7 February
- Air Quality – 11, 12 & 13 February
- Town Centre Vitality – 14th February
- Planning Policy – 25 & 26 February
Proceedings will culminate on the 28th February with closing statements from all parties, for and against.