Norwich Rugby Club to re-locate to the University of East Anglia after councillor vote
Hotly contested plans to move Norwich Rugby Club to the University of East Anglia will go ahead after councillors voted seven to four for the new development.
It will see a number of new pitches and a clubhouse built astride existing playing pitches at Colney Lane, a decision Tim O'Riordan, co-chair of Colney Parish Council, described as 'desperately disappointing'.
Ahead of South Norfolk District Council debating the plans today, more than 400 residents wrote to either support or oppose the plans, which were revised three times in response.
Andy Pott, secretary of Norwich Rugby Club, said the move could take place in time for the 2018/19 season after being given the green light.
'Obviously we are delighted the majority of members supported us,' he said. 'There are still hurdles to overcome, but we have had a great deal of discussions to get to this stage.'
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Phil Steele, director of sport to the UEA, said the new facility would be one to rival the success of the Sportspark.
'We are wholly aware of the impact this will cause and have done everything we can to mitigate for that,' he said.
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'Our expectation is this will replicate all the success of the Sportspark, which Sports England sees as one of their biggest successes.
'There is outright demand for additional playing space.'
But Mr O'Riordan said the 'peaceful' space of the Yare Valley was being taken away from our 'children and our children's children'.
'I am desperately disappointed, and all we can do now is appeal for a positive vision for the Yare Valley and do everything we can to get some amelioration of this scheme,' he said.
More than 400 comments had been lodged with the application to build new sports pitches and a clubhouse at the existing playing pitches on Colney Lane.
Of those, 250 objected to the scheme and 156 were in support.
Concerns included flood risk, congestion on surrounding roads and loss of wildlife habitat, but the Natural Environment Team, Highways Authority and Lead Local Flood Authority at Norfolk County Council had no objections, subject to conditions and safeguards.
Crusaders RFC, based two miles from the UEA at Little Melton, opposed the relocation.
The chairmen of Colney and Cringleford parish councils, along with the Yare Valley Society, had also submitted strong objections.
In a joint letter they said 'it would transform a beautiful and peaceful area with increasing biodiversity into a 'green desert' of sports pitches, fencing and lighting columns and car parks dominated by an intrusive clubhouse.'
A group of 28 staff and professors from the Environment, Space and Place Research Group at the UEA had also raised serious concerns.
Supporters of the scheme insisted relocation to the UEA would be the only viable option to create a leading sports hub.
A spokesman for the university also defended the plans.
'UEA takes its responsibility for protecting the environment extremely seriously, alongside its commitment to providing outstanding sporting facilities for its students and the wider community,' he said.
'As part of the ongoing development of the campus, it has always been intended to enhance the current sporting facility on this site, which is currently set out as sports pitches.'