Hot Spot: Norwich

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 Independent Online

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

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 £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 £700,000 per acre. We would have expected £200,000-£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 £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 £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.

"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."

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