Property: Hot Spot - Norwich: The town that's full of Eastern promise

Norwich is set for a boom-time. New housing on the prestigious waterfront is bringing spiralling demand from both inside and outside the city and a major redevelopment of the town centre is set to bring in a whole range of new facilities.
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The revival of city-centre residential living promises to give Norwich a makeover the likes of which it may never have seen since its erstwhile locals indulged in Roman road rage.

Developers Wilcon and Gazely recently paid an unprecedented pounds 2.8m for the privilege of building 200 homes on a plot near the River Wensum. According to Alan Cole of Watsons estate agents, "This four-acre site will have 50 units per acre - a very high-density for Norwich.

"Normally we build at something like 20-30 units to the acre in the city centre but this land sold for a record figure in excess of pounds 700,000 per acre. We would have expected pounds 200,000-pounds 300,000 per acre."

The higher price is offset by the extra income from the additional units. "This price highlights the scarcity of land, and shows that city-centre dwellings with water frontage are commanding a large premium, even without mooring rights," says Cole.

The overall development will include a 14-screen cinema, bowling complex, nightclub, health and fitness centre, and lottery-funded swimming pool. Cole notes that Hopkins, an active local developer, recently sold the last of its 35 units in Dyers Yard: "The typical buyer was an empty nester who sold their house in, or near Norwich and now wants the convenience and security of a flat, or a young childless couple with disposable income.

"Property prices are rising about 20 per cent this year, in select areas, such as anything on the river or with a river view, and the Golden Triangle in south Norwich," he says.

"This area is close to shopping, large employers like Norwich Union, the University of East Anglia, and Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. It has turn-of-the-century terraces and modern houses which appeal to buyers and renters. South-east Norwich, with classic detached houses and Georgian townhouses, is also solid."

Mark Stewart of Bidwells notes that: "The country market is also very promising, especially the top end of pounds 350,000 and up, which grew about 10-15 per cent last year, and I predict it will increase 10 per cent next year. Demand is very high from outside the area, which rightly perceives this part of Norfolk as good value still. Not a single road going into Norwich is dualled, so businesses have not moved here en masse.

"The survey showed that prices in Norfolk are 66 per cent less than the Cambridge area and only 66 miles away." says Stewart. If a large house happens to be in the city rather than the country, Bidwells will still be happy to sell it, especially as prices in areas like the Golden Triangle seem to have been injected with helium and pounds 400,000 is not unheard of.

"The new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital is currently being built and it should bring in medical consultants who can spend that kind of money," says Stewart. This new facility will replace the city centre hospital of the same name which will close in 2001. The historic sitewill be redeveloped mostly for housing. (See The Low-Down)

"Once the Norfolk and Norwich goes," says Cole, "there will be no more huge tracts of land in the centre. Larger developments will have to be on greenfield sites, which is the way it used to be."

The Low-Down

Transport

Rail service to Liverpool Street Station is half-hourly; journey time is just under two hours. Norwich Airport has a new middle name; "International" - signifying that it now serves Amsterdam as well as Stansted, Heathrow, Scotland, Leeds, Birmingham and Aberdeen.

Prices

One and two-bed flats sell for as little as pounds 20,000 but the divide between flat and house prices is relatively narrow. In north Norwich, pounds 28,950 buys a modern one-bed flat, pounds 35,950 buys a two-bed, and pounds 44,950 buys a four-bed end-terrace town house. "On the north side, pounds 35,000 buys a two- bed period terrace house with garden front and rear. This is what I call a leap-in, because it has no entrance hall and the front door leads straight into lounge," says Alan Cole of Watsons estate agents. Take pounds 300,000 or more for a family or country home at Bidwells.

Properties

Cole says that there are about a dozen new developments in the city centre, of varying sizes, although most are modest. To the south near the rail station is the Wilcon/Gazely development. Directly opposite and even closer to the station are 23 town houses on the former county library site being developed by Hopkins.

Win Some, Lose Some

Many new developments are appearing on or near the meandering River Wensum, which envelops the east and north sides of the city like a giant question mark. St Anne's Wharf will have commercial premises on ground and first floor levels and, new for Norwich, glass and chrome flats above. Unicorn Yard has four town houses on the river, and two three-storey town houses currently available, for pounds 162,000 and pounds 189,000. Other new developments are inland, near the City Hall.

New Suburban Developments

On the Norwich outskirts, King's Lea (Beazer Homes) in Thorpe Marriott, a new village, is being built alongside Taverham, an existing village. Two-bed houses from pounds 56,250 and three-beds from pounds 68,500. Beazer is also building Ferrer's Park, Wymondham (two-bed bungalows from pounds 72,500, and four-bed houses from pounds 97,950) and four-bed homes in Thorpe St Andrew, from pounds 98,950. Bovis is building four-bed homes in Thorpe Marriott, from pounds 99,750, and in Thorpe St Andrew, from pounds 98,950.

Well-Building Syndrome

In Thorpe St Andrew, Persimmon and listed-building specialists Raven Group are jointly developing and converting Grade II St Andrews Hospital into 59 flats and houses in the converted buildings, plus 42 new homes in the hospital grounds.

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital

The council has solicited public comments and suggestion for the site and is currently collating the responses. According to the council, "if the site is all used for housing, then some 200 houses could be built. It is proposed that they should be a mix of types and sizes, with some affordable houses to be transferred to a housing association."

Council Tax Bands

A, D and H are pounds 545, pounds 818 and pounds 1,635. The MPs, both Labour, are Charles Clark and Ian Gibson.

Contacts

Beazer 01603 700981; Bidwells 01603 763939; Watsons 01603 619916.

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