The site is 1.52 hectares in size and is located in the eastern part of the city centre on the south side of Thorpe Road (A1242), a busy and heavily trafficked radial route serving the east side of the city.
The site has frontages to Thorpe Road, Lower Clarence Road and Stracey Road. It is currently occupied and operated by Royal Mail Group and accommodates Royal Mail’s Norwich sorting office, ancillary office and storage uses and vehicle parking. The substantial main building dates from the 1950s.
Thorpe Road is characterised by late Victorian three and four-storey terraces (partly within St Matthews Conservation Area) accommodating a mix of uses including offices, small hotels, guest houses, flats and houses in multiple occupation, interspersed with larger scale office development including a substantial refurbished 1970s office building (Yare House) opposite the site. There are recent housing developments directly to the west (Great Eastern Court and Regency Court), which incorporate locally listed buildings. The site is immediately adjacent to the St Matthew’s Conservation Area to the west.
The site is accessible to a range of city centre facilities including the Riverside retail and leisure complex and has convenient and direct access to the rail station. Vehicular access is taken from Lower Clarence Road which acts as a service road running to the rear of the site: land on the south side of Lower Clarence Road is currently used for long stay public car parking and is also proposed for future development. The Lower Clarence Road frontage overlooks the main platforms and marshalling yards on the approach to the rail station. The site is at present dominated by semi-industrial post-war buildings of little architectural merit with large areas of car and lorry parking which do little to respect the character and context of the area.
The existing mail centre site is proposed for redevelopment subject to the relocation of Royal Mail’s operational facilities, which is planned to take place during the plan period. The opportunity exists for a high density, high quality mixed use redevelopment in an established zone of offices and housing which is well related to the city centre, taking advantage of its location on a public transport corridor.
Housing with a mix of sizes and types should predominate, with a site capacity of in the region of 150 dwellings. There is also potential for an element of office development to complement the office employment base already in the area and to compensate for the loss of local employment displaced by the relocation of the mail centre. A mix of building heights may be appropriate but the prominence of the Thorpe Road frontage on a key approach to the city centre requires development of particularly high quality which has regard to the setting of the adjoining St Matthews Conservation Area and the largely domestic scale of Stracey Road. Opportunities should be taken to re-establish a continuous built frontage on all three street elevations, retaining existing trees and providing for enhanced green infrastructure and landscaping within the site. The site is on the northern side of the river valley and development may be visible from a wide area and could affect the setting of the City Centre and potentially Bracondale Conservation Areas. Therefore the design, including the height and layout of the development, should take this into account.
Vehicular access should be taken from Lower Clarence Road with pedestrian and cycle links established through the site from Thorpe Road and Stracey Road. Mitigating traffic noise from Thorpe Road and the impact of noise from the train station and rail yards to the south will need to be considered in the detailed design of development.
There is scope to reduce parking provision in recognition of the site’s particularly high accessibility and proximity to the rail station and public transport corridor.
The 2007 Open Space Needs assessment identifies a shortfall of publicly accessible open space and play provision in this sector of the city. The Football in the Community Centre at the football club is not considered sufficiently accessible for any future housing in this location due to topography and main roads forming physical and perceived barriers. On site provision is therefore essential for future residents of this scheme, and should be reflected in the layout, design and access arrangements for the site.
Since the site is over 1 hectare, a flood risk assessment is required and appropriate mitigation measures should be provided as part of the development.
Development needs to ensure that the water environment is protected throughout the development of the site. The site falls within Source Protection Zone 1, designated to protect water supplies, and therefore the water environment is particularly vulnerable in this location. Detailed discussions over this issue will be required with the Environment Agency to ensure that proposals are appropriate for the site and that the site is developed in a manner which protects the water environment.
The site is in single ownership (Royal Mail Group) and is suitable and available for development during the plan period.
POLICY CC15: Royal Mail Centre site, 13-17 Thorpe Road – housing led mixed use development
The Royal Mail Centre site, 13-17 Thorpe Road (1.52 hectares) is allocated for redevelopment for a mix of uses including:
- housing (in the region of 150 dwellings); housing should predominate with a mix of sizes and types;
- on-site open space and play space; and
Development must re-establish built frontages to Thorpe Road, Lower Clarence Road and Stracey Road, with enhanced landscaping and green infrastructure and improved pedestrian and cycle links through the site.
A noise assessment is required and the development must be designed to mitigate the impact of noise from the main road and the train station.