Norwich City Council wanted to create a well-connected and vibrant shopping and leisure area in the St Stephens district of Norwich.
The Joint Core Strategy for Greater Norwich targeted St Stephens as a preferred location for significant growth. The council wanted to:
- improve retail and leisure facilities
- create employment opportunities for the growing population of the city and its wider rural hinterland.
The area lies in the heart of the city, and is home to a wide mixture of heritage assets – including Surrey House, the historic headquarters of Norwich Union (now Aviva) – modern buildings, large and small shops, and car parks. The council was justifiably proud of the area’s rich heritage and was determined that only a high quality scheme would be acceptable.
St Stephens Street and the surrounding area suffered from traffic congestion, neglected buildings, underused areas of land and fragmented routes for pedestrians. All these issues needed to be comprehensively addressed and ultimately resolved for the area to fulfil its potential.
In early 2008, the council decided to commission external consultants to develop a masterplan, with the aim of clearly defining a shared spatial vision of growth in the area over the next 20 years.
As a result of its earlier support to the Greater Norwich Development Partnership, CABE was asked to help Norwich City Council write the brief and advise on the procurement process for this complex masterplan commission. CABE enabler Stephanie Al-Wahid worked with the council to develop a brief that would clearly and succinctly set out the aims and objectives, and encourage design teams to respond to the challenges.
CABE worked with the council to define the scope for the masterplan project, which included:
- producing an outline masterplan to co-ordinate the development of the area, covering urban design, land use, property, transport, environmental and building conservation issues
- providing a forum for stakeholders to share ideas and aspirations
- reducing risk for property investments
- providing backing for land assembly
- establishing mechanisms for delivering the changes to the area.
The council assembled a budget of £105,000, with contributions from local authorities and businesses - including some St Stephens landowners and Norfolk County Council. The contributing partners were brought together as a steering group, chaired by Ben Webster, the council’s design quality manager.