Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has denied permission for the controversial redevelopment of Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre.

David Prentis, the assigned planning inspector for the project, recommended that the redevelopment be allowed to proceed. However, the Secretary of State disagreed with this opinion and stated that the proposed 20-storey tower was of “excessive size in relation to its context.”

Redevelopment plans were submitted by Columbia Threadneedle and Weston Homes and had already been approved by Norwich City Council’s planning committee in 2018. These plans included 1’200 new homes – some of which would be located within the controversial tower – as well as a hotel, cinema, car park and new retail units.

The local planning committee voted seven to five in favour of the redevelopment, however the matter was called in by the government at the request of heritage watchdog Historic England. This call-in triggered a four-week planning inquiry into the issues, which was held at City Hall in January and February 2020.

However, Jenrick refused approval on the grounds that the benefits of the scheme would not out-weight the negative impact on local heritage sites. He quoted the ‘uncharacteristic’ nature of the development within the policy of Norwich City Centre’s Conservation Area as well as the impact of the height and mass of the project on Norwich’s history skyline and Cathedral.

James Wright, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall, expressed his joy at the decision by commenting: “Having voted against it at planning and co-signed the call-in letter, I am delighted at this outcome. Something needs to be done to redevelop Anglia Square, but not this and not without a greater amount of high-quality social housing.”

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, expressed his dismay at the decision. He said: “We’re very disappointed by today’s announcement by the secretary of state. This overturns the local democratic decision made by the city council to go ahead with the development as well as the planning inspector’s recommendation to approve it following an extensive public enquiry.”

Opposition to the decision can file for a statutory review under s288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This application must be made within six weeks of the original decision.

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