PRESS RELEASE: SAVE calls for Norwich tower re-think as government decision delayed
10th September 2020
SAVE Britain's Heritage is calling for a fresh approach to the redevelopment of Anglia Square as the government delays issuing a decision on the highly controversial 20 storey tower proposed for the centre of medieval Norwich.
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick was set to issue his decision on one of the most contentious – and largest – developments in Norwich for decades on 7 September. But the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has announced that the decision on the public inquiry is delayed.
SAVE Britain's Heritage, Historic England, the Norwich Society and the resident's group CMSA (the Cathedral Magdelene St Augustine's Forum) took part in the four week public inquiry in January and February this year contesting the calamitous damage the proposed tower and megastructures by Weston Homes and Columbia Threadneedle Investments would have on the character of the city.
The local community also objects to the height and density of the Weston Homes scheme. Following the experiences of the recent Covid lockdown, the design of the housing element - particularly the 20 storey tower - raises fundamental questions around healthy communities.
SAVE backed an alternative vision put forward by Historic England at the public inquiry for regenerating Anglia Square, showing a lower scale contextual approach drawn up by architects Ash Sakula. Their alternative vision shows how a more sympathetic, contextual approach to regeneration could see the area returned to low-rise streets and squares, characteristic of many creative quarters emerging in historic cities like Norwich and elsewhere in the UK, without damaging the essential character which makes the city so special.
Ash Sakula’s proposals would provide 595 dwellings built around traditional streets and terraces. All are dual aspect and every home has either a small garden or a large roof terrace. Much of the medieval street pattern is re-instated and re-connected to the site and its historic surroundings. Shops would be provided as well as a cinema, 100-room hotel and 296 car park spaces. The overall scale of the development would reflect the low-rise character of its surroundings, ranging from 2 to 5 storeys.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage said: "Anglia Square could be transformed for the good with a lower scale development that fits with the grain of Norwich as a magnificent historic city. The alternative scheme by Ash Sakula Architects shows how this can be achieved with homes that come with gardens or roof terraces, and between 2-5 storeys in height so no need for lifts. As we battle with COVID-19, a twenty storey tower at Anglia Square looks increasingly unsustainable as well as out of place in this location."
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: "Since COVID-19, the case against a massive dense over development has become even stronger. The solution must lie with a low rise less intensive more harmonious scheme which can still provide almost 600 homes on the site."
Gail Mayhew, principal at Smart Growth Associates and former Commissioner for the Building Beautiful Commission and former chair of the Cathedral and St Augustine's Forum said: "Our analysis suggests the density of the Weston scheme is one of the highest in the country outside London. Surely this is not the way forward during the Covid pandemic to build resilient healthy communities?"
Under plans submitted by property developer Weston Homes, with financing from landowner Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Anglia Square, within the boundaries of the medieval city and the City Centre Conservation Area, is set to be comprehensively redeveloped. Under the £300 million mixed use scheme of 1250 flats, a 12-storey hotel and a 1200 space multi-storey carpark are proposed on the 12 acre site, replacing existing post-war structures and older buildings.
Approved by Norwich City Council in December 2018, the proposals by architects Broadway Malayan include a highly controversial 20-storey tower and nine bulky adjoining blocks of up to 12 storeys. Of the 1250 flats proposed, 1241 are one and two bed units, with just 9 three bed flats. Just 10% of units would be affordable, a figure that was reduced from the council’s policy minimum of 33% on the basis of the applicant’s viability assessment.
The scheme would also be exempt from £8.9m of Community Infrastructure Levy and would also benefit from £15m of public Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) subsidy from Homes England.
For more information about the public inquiry, the proposals and the alternative scheme, see the SAVE dossier 'Cathedral Cities don't need tower blocks' here.
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