Why waterside homes are hot stuff in Norwich

A former paper mill that served the Colman's mustard factory is among the new conversions along Norwich's canals. Helen Brown reports
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The Independent Online

Yea olde chroniclers have it that the City of Norwich began life as three small Anglo Saxon villages either side of the River Wensum, tributary of the Yare. True, things were shaken up a bit when Viking chief Swein Forkbeard burnt it down in 1004, but still the good population of Norfolk cleaved to, and were cleaved by, their city-bisecting waterway.

Today, as Norwich's star rises, many of the brownfield and post-industrial sites on the banks of the Wensum are being turned into luxury apartments. Perhaps some of the coolest and certainly some of the most reasonably priced urban riverside apartments in the country.

In case you're thinking "coolest" and "Norwich" are words only likely to make an appearance in a sentence dribbling from the mouth of Alan Partridge, here are some things you might not know about the home town of Philip Pullman, Beth Orton and... oh go on then, Delia Smith, Trisha Goddard, Bernard Matthews and Tim Westwood. Last November, Norwich was voted the greenest city in the UK. And, with nine seats, Norwich City Council has the largest number of Green Party councillors anywhere in the country. And, as of July 2006, the city has the biggest free wi-fi network on our little island.

Add to these modern, liberal seductions the charm of 1,500 historic buildings and you can see why it's estimated that Norwich will attract 8,000 new residents in the next five years. The developers have faith. They ploughed £275m into the Chapelfield shopping centre and, as Francis Rushmer of Savills says, most of the brownfield and post-industrial spaces on the riverside have been snapped up with the intention of creating a hip new riverside community of apartment-dwelling professionals.

Perhaps most intriguing among the industrial renovations is "Paper Mill Yard", billed by agents Savills as "a noble, red-bricked former papermill and warehouse standing beside the Colmans mustard factory". And for once I'm going to agree with the rose-tinted copy. Today, Paper Mill Yard Comprises a variety of high specification apartments with parking, situated on the river priced between £155,000 and £415,000. It's a desirable building combining the allure of history, practicality and the romantic echo of your dining table's candlelight on the river. From around 1855, the Colmans Mustard labels were made at the mill. Over at Read Mills (off Kings Street) there's also a complex of grade II listed late 19th-century warehouses and mills being lovingly converted into "contemporary waterside living". Albion Mills consists of one-, two- and three-bed apartments, (£175,000-£369,950) some with river views. Rushmer believes that one of these apartments has been the first in Norwich to sell for over £1m : apparently some über-rich type has bought three penthouses and will knock them into one.

Finally, just 1km from the Chapelfield shopping centre, Hopkins Homes are working on Meridian Place: a development of 22 apartments and townhouses priced from £329,995 to £499,995, where, Hopkins tell buyers, "emphasis has been placed on individuality and privacy with balconies, private terraces and gardens to most homes".

All flats available through Savills, 01603 229 244