Fears historic Norwich sports field could be ‘bulldozed out of history’

Concerns are growing a Victorian-era sports field, owned for decades by Norwich's Colman family is at risk of being 'bulldozed out of history'.

Plans for 65 houses, a children's play area, allotments and open space have been revived for the former Lakenham Sports and Leisure Centre site, off Cricket Ground Road, Norwich.

But there are fears the thatched pavilion at the former home of Norfolk County Cricket for nearly 175 years will be knocked-down if the latest designs are approved.

Planning documents state all existing buildings are to be demolished.

The artist's impressions also do not include the run-down pavilion, said to be built more than 70 years ago.

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Previous proposals put before Norwich City Council have included turning the pavilion into flats or retaining it as part of a sports hub.

Strong opposition has emerged from neighbours to the application from Serruys Property Company Limited, although a letter of support is among those submitted during the consultation.

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Julie Ann Moore, of Cricket Ground Road, called for the pavilion to be protected and wrote: 'There is also another thatched building that used to be the groundsman's cottage. This is an historic site and reference to this should remain and not bulldozed out of history.'

Andy Pritchett, of Jubilee Terrace, said: 'Proposals to renovate and bring back into use such an historic building, in conjunction of the whole of the site's use as a green space should be encouraged.'

Other issues raised include vehicle access to the houses, the impact of added traffic in the area and the potential loss of green space.

Sport England are among the objectors.

Residents are due to meet on January 3 to discuss the proposal.

But Philip Atkinson, a director of application agent Lanpro, said: 'It is clear from the consultation responses received to date that there is no real objection in planning terms to the planned redevelopment of the Lakenham site.

'We are currently working with the statutory consultees to redesign the scheme to address all the concerns raised in the current consultation.'

Mr Atkinson said he viewed the Lakenham redevelopment as 'a force for good'.

Andre Serruys, chairman of Serruys Property Company, added the plan will create construction jobs, affordable housing and publicly available allotments.

But Patrick Manning, Labour city councillor for Lakenham, said the feeling among people in the area is 'fairly negative' to the plan - and the applicants could not be surprised at this reaction as little had changed in the latest designs.

He said: 'I think people don't believe the landowner's claim to be opening more land to the public. If you a look at the plans, the allotments are tucked away at the bottom of the site.'

Mr Manning said he was keen to find a way to spare the pavilion from demolition.

He said: 'Perhaps it could be turned over to the community to be used for meetings or other ways to preserve it.'

The ground, a home for cricket from the 1820s until 2000, was acquired by the Colman's in 1878. The land was sold more than 100 years later.

In July, the council removed the land from its list of approved sites for house-building up until 2026.

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said he hopes the council reject this latest application and is 'very, very concerned' about the future use of the land.

He said: 'This is a site of enormous heritage value associated with its past use. I know the Norwich Society has reported considerable interest from members of the public to the future of the sports ground and the pavilion particularly.

'I just hope the council, who has previously refused permission to develop on this site, will continue to see this as an important part of the area.'

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