Fate of former home of Norfolk cricket hangs in the balance

Flashback to 2007 and how the pavilion looked then.

Flashback to 2007 and how the pavilion looked then. - Credit: Archant © 2007

The fate of one of Norwich's sporting landmarks - Lakenham Cricket Pavilion - will be decided within weeks, with a planning inspector set to decide whether councillors were right to prevent it being demolished.

City councillors decided in February to turn down plans for the old cricket ground site - formerly the home of Norfolk cricket.

But applicant Serruys Property Company, which wanted to build 75 homes on the land off Carshalton Road in Lakenham, has appealed against the decision.

And a planning inspector has ordered a public inquiry, to be held at City Hall later this month, to decide whether the council was right or wrong to turn down the proposals, which also included a football pitch, allotments and a children's playground.

The reasons given by the council in turning down the application were that the loss of the pavilion would be 'detrimental' to the 'local distinctiveness' of Lakenham, that there was not 'adequate' compensation for the loss of open space and that it was likely to increase traffic.

But, in making its appeal, planning consultants Lanpro, representing Serruys Property Company, said the council was wrong in concluding the loss of the pavilion would have such an impact and 'failed to properly take into account the fact that the building can be demolished without planning permission'.

In a document explaining their case, Lanpro state: 'The buildings on the site do not reflect the character or 'local distinctiveness' of the area and are not worthy of preservation'.

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They argue that the site has long not been used for sporting purposes and there is 'no realistic prospect' of it being revived for that use.

They say 'substantial' public open space would be provided and that issues about traffic would be mitigated through a package of measures.

But the council will argue otherwise, with Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, set to argue that: 'The retention of the pavilion would maintain a link not only to the use of the site as a cricket ground but to the social history of the area and to the Colman family itself, and in this regard the pavilion is significant to the heritage of the area and has clear historical significance.

'In short, the pavilion, if lost, would effectively remove the most important remaining built form that links back to the historic use of the site and its historic significance.'

The Lakenham Cricket Ground Residents' Association has submitted its views to the inquiry. A letter sent by the group's chairman Terry Dunning and secretary Julie Ann More states: 'Residents of Lakenham see this as destroying part of Norwich's heritage.

'This is an historical area dating back to the Colman family who had great influence over the prosperity of Norwich. This is an historic site and reference to it should remain and not bulldozed out of history. We believe that any development on this site should retain the pavilion.'

The thatched pavilion at the Lakenham Cricket Ground site was opened in 1936, but the site has been closed to the public since 2007.

A big crowd turned out to watch the opening of the 'new' Lakenham pavilion on Wednesday, June 10, 1936 by Russell Colman, the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk. It replaced one dating from the mid 19th century.

Over the years many of cricket's greats have used the pavilion. Peter May, Geoffrey Boycott, David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Frank Worrell, Sonny Ramadhin, Graeme Hick and Lance Gibbs are among those who enjoyed the pavilion's comforts.

On consecutive days in May 1998 Mike Atherton, who captained England in 54 tests, and sensational batsman Brian Lara appeared for Lancashire and Warwickshire respectively in Benson & Hedges cup matches against the Minor Counties.

But Norfolk too have had their fair share of characters in the home dressing room – Michael Falcon, Bill Edrich, Peter Parfitt, Clive Radley, Henry Blofeld, Quorn Handley, David Thomas and Steve Goldsmith among them.

The inquiry will take place at City Hall at 10am on Wednesday, August 14 and Thursday, August 15. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

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