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Future of former sports club unclear after decade of inaction

PUBLISHED: 14:08 04 January 2020

The former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Archant 2019 Danielle Booden

Questions are mounting over the future of a former sports and social club which has been derelict for more than a decade.

Councillor John Ward called for action on the future of Pinebanks. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Councillor John Ward called for action on the future of Pinebanks. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Pinebanks, off Yarmouth Road in Thorpe St Andrew, has been vacant since it was sold by Aviva more than a decade ago.

And despite Broadland District Council granting owners Berliet Ltd permission to build 231 homes in 2013, not a single home has been built in seven years.

The former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle BoodenThe former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Meanwhile, the site has been prone to vandalism and was victim of an arson attack in 2014.

Now people who live on nearby streets are demanding answers - although opinion on the actual proposed development is divided.

The former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle BoodenThe former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

Sarah Jane Mogfide said she was absolutely horrified when the land was sold for property development, believing it would serve better as a redeveloped sports and community hub.

She said: "It wouldn't have taken much to get it up to date and I contacted several sports clubs who said they were interested in taking on the space.

The former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle BoodenThe former site of Pinebanks sports centre in Thorpe, Norwich. Picture: Danielle Booden

"I used to love going to the social club and there was a real sense of an active community. Every few week there was a weekend event and they would invite everyone in the surrounding area. Now nothing like that exists around here and it is a real shame and a real loss."

However, Ms Mogfide said the stalled plans came as no surprise.

Ceroc dance class at Pinebanks in 2008 when it was also used as a social club. Picture: Adrian JuddCeroc dance class at Pinebanks in 2008 when it was also used as a social club. Picture: Adrian Judd

She added: "The cost of the infrastructure is just too high for any developer to generate profit and it doesn't feel like anyone has got the public's interest at heart. I would not be surprised if it stays in this stalemate for years until housing prices go up, especially as now there is less local objection.

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"But it means that I have still lost too as I can't spend anytime there enjoying the scenery as it is all cordoned off. In a dream world for me, all the plans would just fall through but I don't think that will ever happen."

A married couple aged 40 and 51, who did not want to be named, also do not want the development to happen and are glad there are no signs of construction.

The pavillion in Pinebanks in 2008, before it lay vacant. Photo: Angela SharpeThe pavillion in Pinebanks in 2008, before it lay vacant. Photo: Angela Sharpe

They said: "There is a lot of wildlife that lives in Pinebanks, from deers to birds. We love listening to the owls in the evenings, it's a real wow moment. We fear that the new housing would destroy the surrounding natural habitat.

"To be honest we are quite happy for the site to stay exactly as it is as an open space. The fact that it has been left behind by developers does not bother us at all."

Pinebanks was a sports centre, pictured here is a match between Norwich Union and Sheringham in 2005. Photo: Angela SharpePinebanks was a sports centre, pictured here is a match between Norwich Union and Sheringham in 2005. Photo: Angela Sharpe

Teresa Danher, 69, said the plans posed no problems to her, although she found the developer's inaction puzzling.

She added: "We keep wondering why no one has done anything? To be honest, we wish they would get on with it.

"The only problems we did have were from vandals, but they have stepped up security. As for more housing, it's just a fact of modern life and a natural consequence of a growing population. We all want our children and grandchildren to be able to have homes."

Councillor for Sprowston East, John Ward, who lives nearby, said: "On the one hand, it would be beneficial if the site stayed an open space. On the other hand, Thorpe St Andrew is a vastly growing area and in a prime location near to the city centre and there is a massive demand for housing that needs to be met.

"However it has been going on now for the best part of a decade and the matter does need to be settled once and for all."

The much-delayed scheme is one of a number of significant developments hanging over Thorpe St Andrew, with the town set to continue to grow in coming months.

A spokesperson for Ocubis, which manages the site on behalf of the owner Berliet Ltd, said they could not provide an update at this time.

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