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Developer withdraws legal action against Norwich regeneration scheme

Words: Laura Edgar
Local plan withdrawn / Shutterstock_617641913

Developer Weston Homes and site owners Columbia Threadneedle have withdrawn a High Court challenge against the housing secretary’s decision to reject plans to redevelop Anglia Square in the centre of Norwich.

The controversial scheme was opposed by heritage campaigners. SAVE Britain's Heritage has welcomed the developer’s decision to rescind its legal challenge.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “We salute this decision from Weston Homes to withdraw from the High Court challenge, and to listen to our concerns and those of the local community, Historic England and the secretary of state. We welcome their pledge to reset their highly controversial 20-storey tower scheme, and to collaborate on fresh proposals. SAVE looks forward to seeing more appropriate, much lower-scale plans coming forward, that fit with the grain and character of Norwich as a magnificent historic city.”

Anglia Square is a shopping centre in Norwich city centre that opened in 1970. Weston Homes’s plans included a landmark 20-storey tower and other blocks of up to 12 storeys, to provide 1,250 new homes as well as a cinema, hotel and commercial floor space.

Noting its economic benefits, Norwich City Council approved the scheme in 2018, however, in light of fierce opposition to its decision, which included more than 700 objections and representations from various heritage groups, housing secretary Robert Jenrick called in the application.

An inspector recommended that Jenrick should approve the plans, but he found – contrary to the inspector – that the tower did not “demonstrate the exceptional quality” required of a gateway site by local policy, and was also “excessively” large. He disagreed with the inspector’s finding that the scheme’s benefits outweighed its heritage impact, given the “range and number of assets affected”. He concluded that the scheme’s benefits did not outweigh the heritage harm he had identified. He refused permission in November 2020.

Weston Homes sought to challenge the decision but last week withdrew the High Court challenge, and said it was seeking new plans.

According to the BBC, chief executive Bob Weston said the firm is “committed” to “providing a future for Anglia Square”.

“For this to be successful we need to be aligned with key stakeholders such as Historic England and others who, like us, are passionate about the site and Norwich. We are looking forward to working in friendly collaboration with everyone to create fresh proposals for this challenging site to get the best possible solution for everyone.”

Read more:

Called in: Jenrick rejects £271m Norwich regeneration scheme

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