A vision for East Norwich

Client
Norwich City Council

5th Studio’s original involvement with East Norwich was via a project to establish an ecologically sustainable development on a site known as the Deal Ground for the developer Human Nature.

This work impressed Norwich City Council, who asked us to produce a strategy for unlocking the three key sites that together make up the Eastern edge of Norwich, beyond the station: the Carrow Works site (formerly the Colman’s Mustard factory) on Brackendale, the landlocked Utility site, north of the River Wensum, and the Deal Ground, which abuts Whitlingham Broad.

This strategy was used by the city council to convene common agreement across key landowners and leverage involvement from Homes England. Our work has been instrumental in identifying what infrastructure is required to unlock market failure in delivery of these critical sites for the city. The work takes as a starting point the reuse and retrofit of existing buildings and places.

This work follows two previous projects in Norwich: a scheme to restore and develop the derelict Ferry Boat Inn and the retrofit of the Westlegate Tower – transforming a hated run-down 1960s office block into some of the most desirable dwellings in the city.

The Chance of a Lifetime

Transforming Constraints into Opportunities

The decision to close and vacate the Carrow Works site presents a challenge: the Colman’s firm has been associated with Norwich since the mid-nineteenth century and the departure of the factory means the loss of a significant number of skilled jobs and potential reputational damage to the city brand.

However the release of this site opens a once in a generation transformational opportunity: Carrow Works joins an accumulation of sites on the Eastern edge of the city, bordering the River Wensum between Norwich station and the Broads. Each of these sites, in their current isolation, face challenging barriers to development, but taken together the potential exists to address these issues strategically and to create a new productive quarter for the future growth of the city.

A Project of National Significance

This land area of approximately 50 hectares is within a 15 minute walk from the train station. Such a set of contiguous central sites is a rare opportunity for a city to address and it is critical that the strategic opportunity is grasped to allow the outcome to be greater than the sum of the parts: a comprehensive urban transformation that sets the agenda for the twenty-first century, establishing Norwich firmly as one of the UK’s most forward-thinking cities.

By 2030 this quarter could provide up to 4,000 dwellings and 100,000m2 of employment space, accommodating up to 6,000 jobs.

To enable this vision some key investment in infrastructure is required, with a focus on the Trowse rail bridge, already identified as being in need of replacement.

This study illustrates the opportunity, exploring how three key land parcels can be used to achieve three critical outcomes for Norwich: to create space for the city to grow, to achieve this in a sustainable way and to form a stronger bond with the landscapes beyond the city.

Norwich is part of the Fast Growth Cities Network - a line of high productivity cities beyond London, linked by East-West Rail. It is critical for Norwich to identify where good growth may be accommodated to support the city’s economic & cultural development.

The Carrow Works site incorporates the remains of Carrow Abbey and a historic factory complex, as well as a remarkable mature landscape

1. City to the Broads

The project presents the opportunity to connect the city to the Broads, while recentring Norwich’s railway station at the heart of a sustainable urban quarter

Central Norwich is arrayed around the Castle, the Market and the Cathedral: The railway station is on the Eastern edge of the City Centre, beyond the River Wensum, surrounded by relatively low-intensity land uses.

This project would consolidate the railway station at the centre of a new quarter of the city on its eastern edge. Regeneration of the three key sites allows the creation of a highly connective network, opening up and enhancing the existing biodiversity in the River Wensum and establishing a ‘green grid’ of characterful landscape spaces, integrating existing pockets of significant green space and introducing new areas, to create a sequence of gardens that lead from city to the Broads National Park.

This fine grained and porous network will create a walkable neighbourhood, 10 to 15 minutes walk from the station, prioritising walking and cycling and connecting citizens of Norwich to the remarkable natural environments and leisure opportunities of the Broads.

2. A Diverse City Quarter

Carrow Works incorporates a number of significant buildings available for reuse - illustrated here are two fine brick buildings alongside the River Wensum

From the 2040 City Vision work we know that Norwich is a culturally vibrant city with astrong, independent character. As a city it has a rich heritage while remaining forward- looking and progressive.

A diverse new quarter will make the most of existing building stock on the Carrow Works site(including a number of fine listed buildings) either for permanent reuse or as interim spaces that promote interim or meanwhile uses of the site. This ready-made diversity, together withhigh-quality new architecture, can accommodate a wide cultural mix, from university research through to homes for families.

Together with the opportunity to construct bespoke new buildings at various scales, this newquarter can accommodate institutional uses, professional services, advanced manufacturing and maker spaces. This rich culture of living, retail and leisure spaces extends Norwich’s independent spirit, while supporting the development of skilled jobs and economic development.

The creation of a dense low-car quarter with cutting edge sustainable urban transport willcontribute to ensuring bright minds stay in the city and generate good quality sustained investment in people and jobs.

This view of existing and new buildings fronting a street connecting through to the Broads illustrates the potential of mixed urban setting with a diverse range of buildings and dwellings for all.

3. Cutting Edge Sustainability

Norwich is a progressive city with a commitment to sustainable development. At the heart of this comprehensive vision for the city’s growth to the east is the close proximity of development to the rail station with enhanced and fully electrified services, connecting both cross country and to London.

The strategic nature of the vision opens the possibility of a rapid transit connection between the key trip generating locations in the city, reducing car use within Norwich.

The close proximity of the east Norwich sites to the city centre and to the station allow the establishment of car-free development, supported by an excellent walking and cycling network that connects the city to the Broads. The development will promote healthy streets principles, working with Norwich’s reputation as a happy and heathy city in which to live.

Development will maximise the reuse of existing built fabric to reduce carbon generated through demolition and construction. In turn, this diversity of building scale and type will allow a wide range of accommodation, tenures and uses.

A ‘green grid’ approach to landscape will integrate existing under used open spaces, restored gardens and newly created landscapes to enhance connectivity and biodiversity.

Integrated sustainable urban drainage and flood plain remodelling will be used to create ‘room for the river’ - including storm water storage and wetlands around the river Yare.

A site-wide approach to infrastructure allows the introduction of a low-carbon shared heating, cooling and power network, as well as excellent digital connectivity.

Unlocking Infrastructure at the Scale of the City

The intersection of the railway and the River Wensum creates significant severance on the eastern side of Norwich, isolating the Utilities site and the Deal Ground in terms of connectivity. This constraint has fettered development on these two sites, and if left unaddressed, will also limit the capacity of the Carrow Works site. If the Carrow works site is developed in isolation it is unlikely to have the scale to support rapid transit solutions - so it’s capacity may be heavily constrained by the existing road network.

The Railway

The upgrading of the railway required to achieve Network Rail’s Norwich in Ninety ambition will, in practice, require the replacement of the Trowse swing bridge with a fixed bridge, allowing a twin-track approach to the station, removing the speed and capacity restriction imposed by the present single-track bridge. The resulting improvements in capacity and speed are critical to both the Norwich in Ninety and to the third phase of East-West Rail, linking Norwich with Cambridge & Oxford as well as Birmingham and Stansted airport.

Trowse bridge is the key focus for investment in infrastructure to enable the comprehensive vision described here. To optimise the value from the bridge replacement we have illustrated the benefit of a bridge that plays multiple roles - introducing a longer span which enables riverside connections on each bank, as well as highway-standard connections between the Carrow Works and Deal Ground sites and between Hardy Road and the Utilities site.

The Port & Rivers

A fixed bridge will restrict the navigation of the River Wensum, preventing access for vessels of any size to the Port of Norwich, as established by Act of Parliament. To address this - and to allow the maintenance of a port connected to the city - a new marina would be required downstream of the bridge. This vision integrates the marina and other activity on the river as part of an opening up of the waterways to the east.

Comprehensive regeneration of the key sites will also allow a strategic approach to flood remodelling which affects the development potential of the Deal Ground in particular.

Norwich Orbital

The National Infrastructure Assessment recommends as a key priority that cities develop integrated plans for urban transport to connect housing and jobs in order to facilitate growth and improve the quality of life for citizens. “Space in cities should be used effectively, with room allocated for fast, frequent public transport systems, well-connected and affordable housing, and pleasant public spaces.

This will require a new approach to governance, strategy and funding for urban transport. These proposals identify the potential of an option to complete the city’s orbital road - to date frustrated by the river and the railway. With careful integration with plans for a rapid transport system this connectivity offers greater accessibility between key trip generators in the city.

The context of planned rail connectivity improvements, including East-West Rail and ‘Norwich in Ninety’ upgrades to the Great Eastern Mainline

Comprehensive development and investment in infrastructure has the potential to address a gap in the city’s development, arrested by the river and the railway which have frustrated attempts to integrate this quarter of Norwich, despite multiple ring roads encircling the city. Overcoming this city-scaled gap could support ambitions for modal shift and the creation of an integrated rapid public transport system.

... & the Scale of the Site

In addition to current site access conditions, three scenarios for site access and connectivity were tested. A hybrid of the two most successful scenarios has been adopted for this vision, with wider orbital connectivity safeguarded.

Option 1 explored a river crossing on the Carrow Works site: this does little to improve orbital connections while having a significant impact on Carrow Works and Hardy Road.

Option 2 proposes stitching together the key sites with a route beneath the railway as part of the renewal of Trowse Bridge and a new cross-river connection between the Deal Ground & Utilities site.

Option 3 establishes a high-level crossing over the railway to link the Carrow Works site with Deal Ground, together with a new river bridge and potential further crossing of the railway and Carey’s Meadows to

deliver an orbital link.

Character Areas

Three clear areas of distinct character emerge across the site that in turn allow a diverse set of uses and building typologies to co-exist with a clear set of organising principles.

Wensum Riverside - Connecting the City To The Broads

Causeway - Two New Streets and a Connective Urban Grain

Landscape Enclaves - Amazing Landscapes & Gardens

Quantum

By 2030, supported by the right infrastructure, this quarter of Norwich could support up to 4,000 new homes and 100,000m2 of employment space, located in a diverse range of spaces from re- used historic buildings through to bespoke new structures.

Adjacent to the core sites, there are a number of additional underused land holdings that could further extend these numbers where more productive land uses could be catalysed.

To give some sense of the scale of the opportunity, the diagrams on the right compare the core sites at the same scale as the campus at UEA and the Media City complex in Salford.

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Stay in touch

We are keen to recieve CVs and short portfolios from Part 1 and Part 2 designers. Please contact us via recruitment@5thstudio.co.uk

We actively encourage qualified applicants who are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, disabled, women and LGBTQIA+, as these groups are under-represented throughout the built environment professions.