Architect’s involvement in £271m scheme hangs in balance 

Anglia Square, Norwich

Broadway Malyan’s Norwich proposal for Weston Homes

Architect Broadway Malyan’s involvement in plans for a controversial redevelopment in central Norwich is hanging in the balance after the developer abandoned plans for a costly legal challenge against Robert Jenrick’s decision to reject it.

Weston Homes announced today it was returning to the drawing board but said it would listen to feedback from all stakeholders before launching a “review of who will be used to create a future scheme”.

It refused to commit to Broadway Malyan whose proposals for a 20-storey tower and 1,200 homes in the city provoked outrage from locals and conservation bodies.

Responding to today’s news 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.”

Secretary of state Robert Jenrick turned down the £271m scheme in November on quality and size grounds, against the advice of his planning inspector. Weston, which is promoting the scheme in partnership with Columbia Threadneedle Investments, immediately vowed to take the government to court.

The developer subsequently filed legal papers in December. But today Weston Homes said it would drop its legal challenge and “return to the drawing board” to develop new proposals that reflected the objections made by heritage bodies, including Historic England.

The firm said it will now “agree a collaborative solution for the future of Anglia Square”, and spend the next few months in dialogue with housing quango Homes England, the city council and other stakeholders.

Bob Weston, chairman and chief executive of Weston Homes, said the firm remained committed to developing the site. He said: “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.”

This marks an about turn for Mr Weston, who last December decried Jenrick’s decision “to refuse a massive investment opportunity for the city”, saying it “flies in the face of government policy on housing delivery and encouraging brownfield land regeneration in order to protect the greenbelt.”

James Rigg, chief investment officer of UK Real Estate at Columbia Threadneedle Investments said it will now look to “devise proposals that meet the aspirations of the community”.

Pushed on whether Broadway Malyan would be retained Weston said: ”Firstly Weston Homes is going to speak to stakeholders and review all the feedback on the current proposals. Then, with an open mind, there will be a review of who will be used to create a future scheme.

“This is a reset and Weston Homes is looking at all options regarding the Anglia Square site. This is a fresh start and the housebuilder is keeping a totally open mind about the site and future proposals.”

Historic England has already commissioned architect Ash Sakula to draw up an alternative scheme for the site, which would provide 595 homes built around traditional streets and low-rise terraces.

At the time of Jenrick’s refusal heritage campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage urged the scheme’s promoters to look at alternatives for the site, including “the excellent scheme by Ash Sakula Architects”.

Marcus Binney, executive president of Save at the time hailed the refusal, saying Jenrick had “repelled the vandals at the city gate” and spared Norwich “the most monstrous carbuncle”.

The original city centre redevelopment project for the low-rise cathedral city included more than 1,500 car parking spaces, in blocks of 6 to 12 storeys, centring on a 20-storey tower. Campaigners said it would do irreparable damage to the city’s mediaeval core.

Broadway Malayan referred all queries to Weston Homes.