Green vision of brave new leisure world

STEPHEN PULLINGER These three futuristic domes could form the landmark focus of a huge new leisure park in Gorleston. Shropshire architect Vic Johnson, who specialises in environmentally-friendly design, has worked up the conceptual drawings for a community group which is hoping to get the project under way within two years.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

These three futuristic domes could form the landmark focus of a huge new leisure park in Gorleston.

Shropshire architect Vic Johnson, who specialises in environmentally-friendly design, has worked up the conceptual drawings for a community group which is hoping to get the project under way within two years.

The community activity park (CAP), costing up to £55m, would centre on two ice rinks in a 5,000-seater stadium, a roller skating park and climbing wall.

It is hoped the complex could, in time, become home to a national league ice hockey team.

The 25-acre site, south of the town's deprived Magdalen Estate, would also include fishing lakes, biking, jogging and walking trails, shops and office suites.

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The park management group will learn next month whether its bid for £20.6m from the Big Lottery's Living Landmarks project has made the

final shortlist of 30 projects qualifying for feasibility study funding.

Paul Griffin, economic regeneration officer for enterprise agency NWES, who has been advising the CAP team, said: "Originally, we were one of 700 projects in the running.

"We reached the shortlist of 70, which qualified us for a two-day visit by lottery assessors in May, and we are now confident of making the final 30.

"The assessors were very impressed

by the community base of our

scheme, which has come from the

ground up."

The CAP team has been aided by consultants' firm Mellinsus Renewables Limited (MRL), which specialises in environmentally-friendly schemes.

Mr Johnson, who runs Johnson Design Partnership from his studios at Bridgnorth, Shropshire, highlighted the fact that his plans were at the fore-

front of green design, releasing zero emissions.

Speaking from Hong Kong, he said: "To say I am excited about this venture is an understatement.

"We have worked tirelessly with environmental experts to come up with a design that matches their ambition for sustainability.

"It really is at the cutting edge in terms of its commitment to the environment."

Solar panels and wind turbines

are just some of the scheme's green features.

Mr Johnson said: "Protecting our environment is an issue no one can ignore.

"Our responsibility is to guarantee that we design and construct buildings with the planet in mind."

He is also confident that lottery assessors will see the project's enormous potential.

"People will travel for miles to see this. It certainly explodes the myth that saving the environment is boring," Mr Johnson said.

Mr Griffin stressed that Mr Johnson's designs were at an early stage, and issues such as access for people with disabilities had to be addressed. Any study would also have to include looking at other designs.

Out of the final 30, about 10 projects nationally will be told next summer they have qualified for lottery funding.

Mr Griffin said: "Our consultants, MRL, are confident they can raise the rest of the money we need in the City."

If the group fails in its lottery bid, fall-back plans have been developed to build the park in stages, starting with the fishing lakes.

A farmer has already agreed to sell land for the project, which was inspired by a "Planning for Real" exercise conducted by schoolchildren three years ago.

Youngsters constructed a large-scale map of the area and suggested how improvements could be carried out.

Mr Griffin said: "In preparation for a feasibility study, we are keen to hear any ideas local people, groups and agencies may have."