A huge new student apartment development, which will include a gym and cinema room, has been approved by City Hall.

The purpose-built student studio apartment block is set to be built on the former Richard Nash car showroom and garage in Normans Buildings, off Rouen Road, after councillors gave the plans the green light on Thursday.

Permission was granted despite fears being raised about the number of student developments being built in the city, with a warning that some could become "white elephants".

Crosslane Student Developments wants to demolish the existing structure and build a complex of 141 studio bedrooms, in a single building, parts of which would range in height from three storeys to nine storeys.

Eastern Daily Press: The Richard Nash showroom in Rouen Road, Norwich. Pic: Dan GrimmerThe Richard Nash showroom in Rouen Road, Norwich. Pic: Dan Grimmer (Image: Archant)

The development will be car-free, with 54 doubled stack cycle racks within the building. Plans include a gym for residents, as well as a communal cinema room.

Thursday's planning meeting heard a series of concerns about the plans, particularly over the size of the development.

Gary Thomas, speaking on behalf of Rouen House Ltd, a building next to the site, said: “We believe the proposals are not sensitively related to the height and scale of neighbouring buildings.

“They don’t make any contribution to improving or reinforcing local character and townscape and ultimately don’t display high standards of architecture or design.”

Jamie Osborn, the councillor for Mancroft ward, said the site needs to be developed but raised concerns about noise and the structure overlooking nearby buildings.

He said: “This development will be very tall, it will have a lot of massing and it does not respect the existing buildings in the area, especially the historic King Street.

“I’m very concerned that building this number of student developments at this speed and at scale will leave us with white elephant developments that we don’t need that will really be for quick profits for developers but won't be providing decent quality homes.”

Ian Reilly, an agent for the developer, said the plans would remove an unattractive building and replace it with high-quality modern development.

Mr Reilly added there was a need for studio-style apartments in Norwich.

Several councillors said the plans were finely balanced, with Green councillor Gary Champion welcoming the car-free design, use of air-force heat pumps and swift bricks.

Labour's Sue Sands criticised property developers for treating students like "cash cows", voting against the plans.

The plans were approved.