The Utilities site (6.9 hectares) lies on the south-eastern fringe of Norwich situated between the main rail line and the confluence of the rivers Wensum and Yare. It was formerly used to accommodate the power station and gas works, the majority of which are now redundant and the power station has been demolished.
The area of land is largely inaccessible to the public, the only access roads being Hardy Road, (which passes under a very low rail bridge next to the river, preventing access by large vehicles, and which is known to flood), and Cremorne Lane, which crosses the railway on a single track bridge and is also unsuitable for heavy traffic.
The site is bounded by the railway line and depot to the north and west and the river to the south-east. Further to the east and downstream along the river are Whitlingham Country Park and the open river valley landscape beyond, which is within the Broads Authority area.
The Utilities site extends partly into the Broads Authority area to the east. The area within Norwich is allocated for development in this plan whilst the remaining part of the site to the east will be covered by the Development Plan of the Broads Authority.
The JCS identifies east Norwich (the city centre to the Deal Ground/ Utilities sites) for major physical regeneration providing opportunities for mixed use development and enhanced green linkages from the city centre to the Broads.
The Utilities Site is one of three adjoining and closely related strategic regeneration sites in east Norwich, the other two being the Deal Ground site on the south bank of the Wensum (site R9 in this plan) and the May Gurney site on the south east bank of the Yare (in South Norfolk District) which is intended to provide the principal road access into the Deal Ground site and a new river bridge to the Utilities land. The development of these three “gateway” sites needs to be approached comprehensively and carefully coordinated in order to overcome significant constraints, maximise the sites’ potential for sustainable economic and physical regeneration and integrate and link them effectively with the surrounding area.
The Utilities Site has been identified for many years as a strategic priority for regeneration, initially allocated in both the City of Norwich local plan 1995 and the City of Norwich Replacement local plan 2004 mainly for employment and power regeneration from renewable sources. In recognition of the strategic importance of both the Deal Ground and Utilities sites and their potential for mixed use regeneration of east Norwich, an initial options appraisal was undertaken in 2007. The appraisal set out principles and opportunities for development and took account of a number of detailed evidence studies and the results of public consultation. The government-funded evidence studies prepared alongside and subsequent to the appraisal included a flood risk assessment, a sustainability appraisal, a contaminated land (stage 1) desktop study, a transportation assessment, an ecological study, a high level archaeological review, a report on title, and a viability review (although these are dated in some respects).
A pre-application planning advice note was produced to provide guidance for potential developers of the Deal Ground and/or Utilities sites prior to adoption of this local plan. This was prepared jointly by Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council in its capacity as the highway authority, South Norfolk Council and the Broads Authority, and was published in 2009 and updated in August 2010. This officer level guidance note brought together former planning policies, guidance, and evidence studies, and has helped inform the development of this policy.
Viability and deliverability are key considerations in the delivery of the regeneration project and individual proposals will not be allowed to prejudice the comprehensive sustainable development of the east Norwich area as a whole.
An outline planning application (reference no 10/02172/O) for the redevelopment of the Deal Ground and the adjacent May Gurney site, was submitted in December 2010 to the three relevant planning authorities. In addition to the proposed housing development, the application(s) demonstrated a need for development south of the River Wensum to include a new pedestrian/cycle/vehicular bridge over the River Yare, and a new bridge for pedestrian cycle and at minimum an emergency vehicular use over the River Wensum, linking to the Utilities site.
The site has potential to deliver a new section of the outer orbital cycle route forming part of the strategic cycle network, which would also benefit from cycle links through the Deal Ground and May Gurney site to Whitlingham.
Any applications for a bridge over the River Wensum will need to be submitted to both Norwich City council (for the bridge footings) and the Broads Authority (for the bridge span).
Key development considerations and constraints are:
- Need for substantial new transport infrastructure to serve the site including a new bridge to ensure emergency vehicular, cycle and pedestrian access from the south from the Deal Ground site;
- Any housing development should ideally be car-free given the site’s constrained vehicular access;
- Need to manage the transport impact of the development on the strategic highway network and provide for sustainable accessibility by modes other than the car. In particular the development must provide for access to public transport, and enable a link through from the Deal Ground to the Riverside area and the railway station.
- Need to address and mitigate potential environmental impacts from adjacent uses including the impact of noise from the railway and dust from the aggregate depot to the south-west;
- Need to address and remediate site contamination and remove redundant utilities infrastructure from previous industrial uses.
- Need to respect and enhance the key areas of landscape and biodiversity value adjoining the River Wensum and River Yare, including the adjacent Cary’s Meadow;
- Need to address and mitigate flood risk: parts of the site are in Flood Zone 3 and remainder in Flood Zone 2. A flood risk assessment must be undertaken and appropriate flood mitigation measures provided.
- Development should make incorporate appropriate provision for sustainable drainage;
- Need for high quality design and sensitivity in the overall form and configuration of development: the site occupies a prominent position at the confluence of two rivers forming the eastern approach to Norwich; the form of development needs to respect its riverside setting, acknowledge the proximity of Whitlingham Country Park and the village of Trowse, and manage the potential impact on long views toward and away from the urban edge;
- Development of part of the site for power generation is likely to be subject to environmental impact assessment and, dependent on its scale, may be considered by the Infrastructure Planning Commission;
- Height and design of bridge should avoid compromising navigation;
- Need for the design and layout of the scheme to ensure that any residential and employment uses are going to be compatible with both the railway noise and the future power station. This is a pre-requisite of the masterplanned design stages and should be masterplanned for all uses if only parts of the scheme come forward independently.
- Need for investigation of on-site archaeology: an archaeological assessment will be required prior to development.
Development needs to ensure that the water environment is protected. 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.
A permit is required for the power generation element of the development from the Environment Agency. It is recommended that developers engage in early discussions with the Agency on this matter.
This site lies adjacent to the River Wensum. A written consent from the Environment Agency is required for proposed works or structures, in, under, over, or within 9 metres of the top of the bank of a designated ‘main river’. It is recommended that developers engage in early discussions with the Environment Agency.
The site is in multiple ownerships. However, the developer is working closely with the council to promote the site. The site is therefore developable in the plan period.
POLICY R10: Utilities site – mixed use development
The Utilities site (6.9 hectares) is allocated for a major mixed use development to secure the beneficial, sustainable regeneration of this key gateway site on the eastern fringe of Norwich.
- be approached on a comprehensive basis as part of an overall scheme for the “river gateway” sites in east Norwich. Piecemeal development will not be acceptable and proposals for the Utilities site should not prejudice the development of the Deal Ground and May Gurney site or the wider regeneration of the east Norwich area;
- in particular the development of this site is conditional on the resolution of access issues, including access to public transport, on adjacent Kerrison Road site (R11);
- provide a mix of uses to include housing, employment and power generation from renewable sources. The housing element should provide a minimum of 100 dwellings;
- be planned as an exemplar development providing for high standards of design, energy efficiency, flood resilience (including addressing identified risks from fluvial and surface water flooding, providing for sustainable drainage) and enhancement of natural assets;
- provide for sustainable accessibility and permeability through the site including a new section of riverside walk along the site frontage, and a new vehicular/pedestrian/cycle bridge over the River Wensum, to link with Deal Ground. This bridge must be in place prior to substantial development on either site;
- provide for a vehicular access to the site via the Gothic Works site (R11) either over or under the Norwich to London railway line, for emergency access and servicing;
- be designed to provide accessibility to public transport;
- establish a strong frontage to the southern edge of the site alongside the River Wensum. Development in this part of the site may include public moorings and/or private moorings serving new residential development and opportunities for water-based leisure and recreation, and make provision for water-borne freight access and processing;
- provide a network of green infrastructure throughout the site including areas of formal and informal open space and playspace to serve new residential areas;
- seek to maximise the use of renewable and low carbon energy sources including the provision of district wide heating and CHP;
- address and remediate site contamination;
- conserve and enhance the heritage and archaeological significance of the site and surrounding area;
- preserve the open character of the Yare Valley, the fringe of the Broads and the rural areas to the south and east, and maintain strategic long views through and beyond the development site;
- must demonstrate appropriate regard and compatibility to the neighbouring site within the Broads Authority LPA area;
- a noise assessment is required and the development should be designed to mitigate the impact of noise from the adjacent uses and potential noise from the future power station.