New sports centre for Hewett Academy given go ahead despite accusation of an Inspiration Trust “land grab”

Hewett Academy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hewett Academy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The Inspiration Trust has been accused of a 'land grab' as plans to erect a new sports hall on the Hewett Academy site were approved by the city council planning committee.

The Trust brought plans to Norwich City Council for the standalone centre, to include a four-court hall and changing rooms, to enable pupils from schools including Jane Austen College, which 'lacks a sports hall', to use the facilities.

The centre on Cecil Road - to be used for badminton, basketball, volleyball, indoor cricket and trampolining - will be funded by a government grant aid.

Despite approving the plans, Labour's Hugo Malik, for Nelson ward, said he was 'really quite appalled at the whole situation with the Inspiration Trust.'

'There are two schools plonked in completely unsuitable locations without planning permission, who are now doing a land grab of a school that has had a long tradition of serving the community,' he told the planning committee.

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'These new schools are leading to the slow death of this school. I am very concerned about the long term prospects behind this scheme.'

Committee chairman Labour's Keith Driver, for Lakenham ward, said he was 'disappointed' the facilities would not be open to the wider community.

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'They build schools in the wrong places with no playing fields and then disadvantaged kids from those areas are not allowed to use the facilities,' he said of the Trust.

'This is a good scheme and it will benefit the kids of the city,' he added.

'It is a shame it is not being used for the community but the old sports hall is falling to bits.'

Green councillor Denise Carlo, for Nelson ward, added: 'Free schools are being developed in the city centre with inadequate on site facilities.

'We need to take these schools to task. Students are going to be bussed around the city on diesel coaches and the rest of the city will feel the impact.'

Mike Sands, Labour, for Bowthorpe, said he suspected the application was 'a precursor' to consolidating further Inspiration Trust schools at the Hewett site.

The application, which will see the former gym building demolished, was approved unanimously. The new centre will serve Hewett Academy, Wherry School, Jane Austen College and Charles Darwin School.

Inspiration Trust spokesman James Goffin said: 'We are delighted that councillors have backed the new sports hall, which will replace the existing dated facilities with a new four-court sports centre.

'Jane Austen College students already regularly play sport at The Hewett Academy and this new investment will further improve the facilities available to both schools. We also hope to make it available to other nearby schools like Charles Darwin Primary and the new Wherry School.'

He said the new build would 'ensure Norwich children continue to have access to some of the best facilities in the country.'

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