Pinebanks poll: Were councillors right to turn down proposals for 260 homes in Thorpe St Andrew?

The original Victorian house and Taylor's Tower on the Pinebanks site. Picture: Adrian Judd. The original Victorian house and Taylor's Tower on the Pinebanks site. Picture: Adrian Judd.

Thursday, February 28, 2013
12:00 PM

The future of a boarded-up sports ground in Thorpe St Andrew has been thrown into fresh doubt after a surprise decision to reject plans for over 200 new homes being built there.

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The linked proposals for 215 homes at Pinebanks, the former Norwich Union sports ground, and 52 homes in nearby Griffin Lane were finally brought before Broadland District Council’s planning committee yesterday.

However a packed public gallery were left shocked when councillors voted against the plans, going against a report prepared by council officers ahead of the meeting advising councillors to approve them.

It now remains to be seen what the owners of the two sites, Jersey-based Berliet Ltd, will do next.

A spokesman for the company’s development managers, Ocubis, said: “We are disappointed that despite an officer recommendation and widespread support from the community, town council and Thorpe St Andrew School, we were not able to get on with delivering the package of community benefits that the proposals included.

Pinebanks history

February 2008 – Members of Pinebanks informed by Norwich Union, now Aviva, that the site would be shutting. Members told the site is worth almost £500,000 in real estate and over 30 sport socieites are immediately left searching for a new home.

December 2009 – It emerges Jersey-based Berliet Ltd have purchased the Pinebanks site from Norwich Union, although the company insists it has no firm plans and the site may not be developed for five years.

November 2010 – Local residents join forces with Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and district councillors to make clear to Berliet Ltd’s development manager, Ocubis, that provision for sports facilities were included in any plans.

January 2012 – Broadland District Council head of planning Phil Courtier warned any Pinebanks development would be unacceptable were new facilities not equal to those lost when the site closed in 2008.

May 2012 – Ocubis reveals its plans for 215 homes at Pinebanks, alongside 52 homes at Griffin Lane. and reveals a ‘sports hub’ which would create new sport facilities, including a skate park and cricket training facilities, and bring redundant football pitches back into use.

“We will now consider our options.”

The plans for 215 houses on the Pinebanks site were voted to be refused by 12 of the 15 councillors on the planning committee.

Twelve councillors also voted to refuse an application to demolish the vacant buildings on the Pinebanks site, which did not include the Grade II listed Victorian Taylor’s Tower and second world war zero radio station.

While on the third application, for 52 affordable homes at Griffin Lane, there were 10 councillors who voted to refuse.

The Pinebanks and Griffin Lane sites were linked by one set of planning agreements offered by the developer amounting to around £3m in community benefits.

That is because over 30 sports societies were left without a home when Pinebanks was closed in February 2008, so campaigners had been calling for the district council to ensure the lost sports facilities were replaced as part of the plans.

Mike Riches, from the Friends of Thorpe St Andrew (FOTSA) campaign group, spoke to councillors at the start of the meeting and urged them to reject the plans.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Riches said he was “very pleased” the plans have been rejected, saying: “This is very encouraging as far as our local community is concerned.

“We are very keen to pursue our vision of providing open access community sports and leisure facilities on the Pinebanks site and are still willing to work with the developer to see this vision become a reality.”

The developers had attempted to compensate for the loss of the sports facilities by pledging several planning agreements.

These included £997,000 towards a new sports facility at Thorpe St Andrew School, for which there is pre-existing planning permission.

This also included £25,000 for reinstating two football pitches at Dussindale Recreation Ground and £80,000 towards a skate park, while £400,000 would contribute towards a new town council community facility.

Ian Clayton, headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School, was another of the public speakers at the start of the meeting, speaking of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and urging councillors to approve the plans.

Thorpe town councillor Jonathan Emsall, who had particularly worked on ensuring a skate park’s inclusion in the proposal, had also spoken in favour of the plans.

Mr Emsall said: “The money available will give the town council the ability to improve and update our buildings without taking out loans.”

However councillors were unhappy that Broadland’s affordable housing minimum for sites of 33pc was not being met, at under 25pc, and that an estate of only affordable housing was being created on the Griffin Lane site, rather than spread across the two sites.

Most of the councillors were also charmed by the original Victorian house attached to Taylor’s Tower, which had subsequently had unsightly modern sporting facilities added to it.

Many of the councillors voted against the demolition application as they felt the original house should be added to the exemptions.

- Do you think the councillors made the right decision? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or vote in our Pinebanks poll above and leave your comments below.

- For more about the history of the Pinebanks saga, see the links at the top-right of this page.

10 comments

  • A member of the council team living on nearby Henby Way, a road which would have have opened up as a link to this new estate?! NIMBY by any chance?!

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    Adams is God

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • Having attended the meeting I consider the councillors had every right to refuse the 3 applications as they were not offered any cogent reasons by the planners for the division of "affordable" housing, other than the high level of the S106 payments by the developers. This was clearly going to be a big stumbling block, and should have been foreseen and planned for. Did the council planners not have any indication of this strong feeling against their plans on the issue of affordable housing levels? Clearly both the planners and the developers had not recognised the importance of the retention of the Pinebanks house to the councillors, although as a listener at the meeting I thought the arguments put forward by the councillors and the conservation officer were more emotionally based than logical, and did not take into account the clear indication of the probable unfeasibility of its conversion and re-instatement - given that it has been added to on 3 of four sides. To create 4 quality apartments will probably costs as much as their selling prices! It's pretty, but not economically saveable. The issues raised of the feasibility of the ongoing management of the listed Taylor Tower, the woodlands and the common green areas were and are very valid in any development of this size with so much green area, and a management company running this through deeds of covenants on the freeholders is likely to fail within 10 years or less, so perhaps a more effective answer for future site management is needed. Much was made by the objectors about the loss of sports facilities, but these were never public, and only available to private individuals who paid for their use through membership, and only because Aviva had a lot of spare capacity as it downsized. In the circumstances what is offered by the developer under the current S106 are new, genuinely public sports facilities and are more than generous So should the planned housing go ahead - on balance yes, but the developers will have to spread the affordable housing more equitably between the 2 sites, and in doing so the councillors will need to recognise this is going to mean a reduction in the S106 payment. The developers will need to consider how feasible the sites now are with the impact on marketability and selling prices of the planned housing on the Pinebanks site, and how they can sell high value units on the Griffin Road site without severely negatively impacting on the feasibility of the whole project.

    Report this comment

    John Flowerdew

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • …..so!..is that a yes or a no?...

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    Stew Pydsodd

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • Not at all, if they have a private interest in the result the member should NOT influence decision making. I would hope this is what happened.

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • …..Surely some one who this will effect is the right person to be heavily involved in the decision making. I hope it is not being suggested that a person living in the Channel Isles is the better choice!......

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • NIMBY or conservation or even the possibility of councillors living near by. It will matter not in the end as the Pinebanks site will be built on,of this have no doubt. If companies can build unwanted houses on our stunning Norfolk landscape and farmland they sure as hell will build on land inside Norwichs ring road. It's just a matter of stuffing all the plans into the brown envelope ;) no place is safe anymore from the "build our way out of this" plan. Coming soon to a an empty space near you.

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    paul marris

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • @churchill What was approved by who?

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    iclone-2000

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • I am stunned and shocked that a housing plan has been turned down. I've seen beautiful green fields being built on agricucral land being built on houses being built were houses are just not needed and boundaries of villages being moved to acomadate homes we do not need. Maybe just maybe you should have used the standard larger brown envelope to put the plans in.

    Report this comment

    paul marris

    Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • @ Lambo and @iclone - Thorpe Town Council also has prominent members on the doorstep of the development and it was approved by them so the point doesn't really stand

    Report this comment

    churchill

    Friday, March 1, 2013

  • I agree with much of Mr Flowerdew's comments. I anticipated the proposal to remove the old house would cause concern as far conservation matters go. But it appears that none of the sides have spoken about it until the meeting! A very strange and costly way to move to do business. I hope that alternative plans have already been considered by the developers which are feasible, and the development can be approved in good time. I for one would welcome the investment in the sports and community facilities which would truly be for the public of Thorpe St Andrew. As Mr Flowerdew says, Aviva facilities were always paid for by the various clubs and non-Aviva club members (I certainly had to pay for the gym and football pitches). The old argument about loss of 'public' sporting facilities by opposition voices in an attempt to disrupt the development has become very tired!

    Report this comment

    iclone-2000

    Friday, March 1, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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