Envision CAD are based in Norwich.  Generally the retail scene there is positive, but there’s pockets of difficulties. If you walk from St Stephen’s Street towards John Lewis up Timber Hill or Westlegate there’s businesses closed.

Step further into the city centre and the beautiful Royal Arcade is slowly beginning to empty of businesses.


Jamie’s Italian closed and other units along there are empty.

It’s the same in Great Yarmouth too. There’s with a definite drift of business outward. This drift is to either Gorleston high street, which appears to be thriving, or Gapton Hall Retail Park (M & S being an obvious example).

Now our job at Envision CAD is one of planning, architectural planning. But as this shift happens in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and many other towns across Britain, does urban living need a rethink?

Norwich and Great Yarmouth have shown innovative thinking with sculpture trails, light tunnels and outdoor ice rinks, but does this need to be ongoing, as in Liverpool?


The rise of online shopping has certainly been a major factor in the decline of town centres, but are other events causing it too? Is the cost of parking and travel too high? Would footfall increase in towns and cities if parking fees were lower or even free? Friends have told me of schemes in market towns up north that have bucked the trend by having such schemes for residents and visitors: Stokesley and Yarm are two examples.

Has the trend to smaller grocery shops reduced the profitability of big supermarkets? We’re sure if you looked at the Tesco balance sheet, their smaller Metro and Express stores would be more profitable than their huge Extra stores.


Our point is this:  if high streets, town centres and cities are changing, what will architectural planners, like us, advise?

We worked on WJ White Florist’s in Gorleston high street and you can read the case study here.

That’s just one example with more conversion projects to showcase soon, like the windmill in Reedham.

But what is the future for vast spaces like empty Toys R Us units? Could they undergo clever change of use? 

After all, the Toys R Us in Norwich is in a great central location, with easy road access and vast parking.

How could that be transformed?

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