The vacant Pinebanks site in Thorpe St Andrew. Photo: Andy Darnell

Poll: Pinebanks plans advised for approval ahead of committee decision - do you agree?

Thursday, February 21, 2013
12.00 PM

Controversial plans for more than 260 new homes in Thorpe St Andrew look to have moved a step closer to becoming reality – but defiant campaigners said today they were not giving up their fight.

The proposals for 215 homes at Pinebanks, the former Norwich Union sports ground, and 52 homes in Griffin Lane are set to go before Broadland District Council’s planning committee next Wednesday.

A report prepared for the committee by council officers has been published ahead of the meeting and is advising the councillors to approve the proposals.

The site has now been left empty for five years and Berliet Ltd have been planning to develop the site since December 2009.

Mike Riches, spokesman for the Friends of Thorpe St Andrew (FOTSA) campaign group, said he was “surprised” the plans had been recommended for approval.

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.

FOTSA have been campaigning to try and ensure sports facilities lost on the Pinebanks site will be replaced and Mr Riches, who lives in Henby Way, is not giving up hope of Broadland’s planning committee going against the recommendation.

He cited comments from Sport England in the report, which state “the proposal fails to meet” the organisation’s playing field policy.

Mr Riches said: “The sporting aspect is the biggest thing that we have been campaigning for and I still think the sports hub being proposed is not going to work.

“The council needs to make sure the developers do replace what’s being lost for our future generations.

“How many kids are becoming obese has been in the news and it’s frightening. Whenever I go abroad every village seems to have a sports pitch, but we seem to have our priorities wrong in this country.”

Development managers Ocubis, working on behalf of Berliet Ltd, have attempted to compensate for the loss of the Pinebanks facilities by pledging several planning agreements.

These include £997,000 towards a new sports facility at Thorpe St Andrew School, which would have public opening hours and for which there is also pre-existing planning permission.

This also includes £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 facilitiy.

Three members of the public have so far requested to speak about Pinebanks at the committee meeting next Wednesday. Anyone else wanting to speak must contact the council by 5pm tomorrow.

- Do you think the plans should be approved? Cast your vote in the poll above and leave your comments below.