Planning consent granted for UK's first LifE project
Norwich City Council last week granted planning consent for a major redevelopment of 670 homes, local centre and restaurants in East Norwich. The masterplan adopts many of the award winning LifE principles to simultaneously tackle issues of flood-risk, contamination and highways – resulting in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive and people friendly scheme and a catalyst for regeneration of this part of Norwich.
An international team, combining Dutch architects Atelier PRO and water specialists Baca Architects developed the plans for the brownfield site on the outskirts of Norwich City Centre. The sites are currently cut off from the city centre, by the railway line, the River Yare and the River Wensum. These important sites mark the transition between the City and the Broads. Redevelopment provides the opportunity to create a befitting gateway and landmark sustainable community of national importance.
The new development will form a transitional edge between the city and the Norfolk Broads, locating flood resilient homes around ecological swales that drain into a ‘County Wildlife Site’ marsh. A sustainable transport approach includes a pedestrian and cycle main through fare, reduced car parking and neighbourhood car club.
The sites are constrained by existing infrastructure, highways issues, flood-risk and ecology. The masterplan has been developed that responds to all of these issues to find an integrated and effective solution, without losing sight of the ambition. Flood-risk is managed by increasing the extent of the marsh, providing more space for water and reducing flood-risk to other areas. The ecology is preserved and enhanced by extending the marsh into the development, along ‘fen swales’ and green corridors, placing ecology at the core of the design. The solution to these constraints is a landscape-led development, with greenery and open space central to the proposal; providing space for ecology, water and play; preserving the green views from the Broads and Whitlingham back towards Norwich and enhancing the river corridors.
The development will be child and pedestrian friendly. The main access through the site is a generous cycle and pedestrian path, which runs through the new fen swales and the centre of the new housing streets. A new opening bridge across the River Wensum will provide access from the North of the River Wensum. A new fixed vehicular bridge across the Old Yare will connect the Deal Ground with the May Gurney sites and continue the cycle and footpath from Norwich City south towards Trowse. This route may form part of the cycle network, linking the city with the Broads and Trowse with the city. The masterplan includes car-free roads, allowing safe access from the homes to the numerous play areas integrated throughout the development.
‘It is typical of major brownfield sites, blighted by contamination, highways capacity, major infrastructure and flood-risk yet thriving with ecology. Rather than viewing these issues solely as constraints the team have responded positively to create a sustainable landscape-led solution that integrates flood risk management, with shared public space, extends the ecology throughout the development and prioritises sustainable transport, with a meandering foot and cycle path forming the main access. This has helped to create a socially responsible development and exemplar for 21st century planning.’says Robert Barker, director in charge for Baca Architects