Norwich rugby club’s proposed move to UEA site suffers major blow

Norwich Rugby Club. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Rugby Club. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Plans for a Norwich rugby club to relocate to a new home at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have been dealt a major blow amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sporting grounds at the University of East Anglia. Photo: Mike Page

Sporting grounds at the University of East Anglia. Photo: Mike Page

Norwich Rugby Football Club (NRFC) was granted permission to relocate from Beeston Hyrne, north of Norwich, to the UEA’s Colney Lane playing fields in 2016.

Under the deal NRFC was hopeful of developing sporting facilities at UEA as part of a proposal which would have seen the money generated from the sale of the rugby club’s site go towards a major investment on the university’s playing field site.

The plans initially had to be put on hold due to a highways issue at the club’s Beeston Hyrne site, but the proposed move has been dealt a further blow after UEA said it has stepped away from the deal after the project team was unable to find a deal which could go ahead without relying on significant investment from UEA.

UEA Sport has changed its long-term plans during the last 24 months and a 100-year agreement tying use of the land has also become a challenge.

Norwich Rugby Football Club, Beeston Hyrne. Photo: Colin Finch

Norwich Rugby Football Club, Beeston Hyrne. Photo: Colin Finch - Credit: Colin Finch

Following financial difficulties within the project and impact of coronavirus, the UEA wrote to the club to say it could no longer support the project.

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Phil Steele, director of sort and commercial services, said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on our planning for the short-term and regrettably we have had to withdraw from the project with NRFC. The deal we had been working on is no longer suitable given the impact of the pandemic on our finances and we are not in a position to meet the financial shortfall for the club.

“We know that for many this will be disappointing news, given the amount of work which has already gone into the project, however, we remain committed to improving the sporting facilities at Colney Lane playing fields.”

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Bob Annable, chairman of the rugby club’s development committee, said: “This is a major blow to the aspirations of our relocation project but we fully understand the university‘s decision during these unprecedented times.”

He added: “We continue to look forward to another exciting season at Beeston Hyrne, following our promotion last season, once rugby is allowed to kick off again at community level.”

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