The site is located in the St Stephens Street area and is 1.5 hectares in size. The site mainly comprises shops along St Stephens Street and two seven-storey towers which are currently empty but were previously used as offices. The site also contains the grade II* listed Bignold House on Surrey Street, and a multi-storey car park on the corner of St Stephens Street and Queens Road.
The site is surrounded by a wide range of uses. The bus station is located immediately east of this site adjoining the inner ring road. The recent Chapelfield shopping mall development opposite is the largest retail development in Norwich and also contains residential apartments.
The wider St Stephens area is almost exclusively in retail use, although service industries (banks, estate agents, etc.) and restaurants, cafés and bars are also spread throughout. Some buildings are in office use above ground floor level. The area contains the majority of large department stores, shopping malls and national chains in the city centre. St Stephens Street is the major route into the city from the south-west.
As a result the street is busy with both pedestrians and traffic and is characterised by large buildings or blocks of buildings. While many of the buildings on the site date from the mid to late 20th century, it includes historic buildings and the area is also important archaeologically. The main routes are wide with spaces often at the junction of streets, indicating the former market uses of the area. The adopted Norwich Area Transportation Strategy (NATS) includes the removal of general traffic from St Stephen’s Street and the designation of nearby Surrey Street as a strategic cycle route.
The City centre conservation area appraisal identifies the majority of buildings on the site as ‘negative buildings’, including the two tower blocks; the view towards the St Stephens roundabout from St Stephen Street is also identified as a ‘negative vista’. However the street frontage on St Stephens Street is defined as ‘positive’, and the north part of the site also contains some listed and locally listed buildings.
The JCS identifies the Stephen’s Street area as an area of change requiring comprehensive regeneration. It states that the St Stephen’s area will be developed for mixed uses in accordance with the St Stephens Street area outline masterplan, to promote retailing, offices and housing and to create an improved pedestrian environment.
The development of this site has the potential to make a significant contribution to the regeneration of the wider area. It presents an opportunity to secure major enhancement of the St Stephen’s gateway area through creation of a high quality streetscape, with a more attractive public realm and pedestrian friendly environment.
Development proposals should address the site’s constraints which include its location in the city centre Conservation Area and Area of Main Archaeological Interest; its location as a gateway site to the city centre, the need for major demolition, and existing shop leases and parking arrangements.
The masterplan sets out indicative plans for development of the site as part of the overall regeneration of the area. The “high intervention” scheme put forward in the masterplan proposes eventual demolition of a significant part of the site including the two towers and some shops, and redevelopment for 250 dwellings, 8,270 m2 of offices, 470 m2 of retailing and 92 underground parking spaces. Retail uses are promoted at street level with a mix of uses on upper floors.
A new pedestrian linkage is proposed, from St Stephens Street to the Bus Station to improve accessibility; this could potentially include a new public open space to act as a focal point in the scheme, subject to viability. Scale of development would vary, ranging from 3 – 4 storeys along the St Stephen’s Street frontage up to 7-storey at its junction with the inner ring road.
The council’s aim is the comprehensive development of this site to reflect its potential as a focus for city centre mixed use regeneration including housing, the expansion of employment and provision of appropriate main town centre services and facilities. However, the policy allows for an incremental development to take place if it can be demonstrated that a comprehensive scheme is not viable, to allow for the re-use and redevelopment of existing buildings on the site. Any proposals must demonstrate consistency with the other policies in the development plan, with particular emphasis on achieving a high quality of design and amenity.
Development should also take account of the City centre conservation area appraisal.
As the site is more than 1 hectare in size, a flood risk assessment and appropriate mitigation measures will be required. In addition an archaeological assessment will be required prior to development.
The entire site and buildings are in a single ownership by Aviva Investors. The landowner has expressed their intention to bring the development forward during the plan period. The site is therefore suitable and available for development.
POLICY CC27: St Stephens Street – mixed use development
The St Stephens Street site is allocated for a comprehensive mixed use development, which is to include:
- primarily retail development at ground floor level;
- office and residential uses on upper floors;
The development mix would be subject to viability but the development will provide a minimum of 250 dwellings and include a new pedestrian link to the bus station from St Stephens Street.
If comprehensive mixed use development can be demonstrated not to be viable, then the re-use and redevelopment of the existing buildings on the site will be acceptable, to allow for;
- the expansion of retail activities through reconfiguration of the current service yard and removal of the existing vacant building to the rear of 35-57 St Stephens Street adjacent to the bus station;
- the refurbishment and re-use of the two tower blocks for a mixture of offices, residential or student accommodation, consistent with other policies of the development plan; and,
- the provision of a new pedestrian link to the bus station from St Stephens Street subject to technical and financial viability considerations.