Path cleared Wymondham Rugby Club’s vision to relocate, and for 390 new homes
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
They have won countless games, hosted rollicking social events and seen their numbers swell.
But today members of the Wymondham Rugby Football Club are celebrating a victory of a different kind - off the pitch.
The triumph paves the way for new, larger club grounds and, controversially, 390 new homes to be built on and near the club's current site.
The decision was made by Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for communities and local government, who stepped in to overturn a South Norfolk Council ruling from January last year, when a committee voted unanimously to block the £5.5m plan.
The committee cited fears over a lack of school places to cope with the extra homes and the loss of a green space between Wymondham and Hethersett.
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But a report from Mr Javid's office deemed the plans acceptable as the council was not able show it could cope with housing demand.
Rugby club chairman Andrew Kilby said he was delighted with the decision, which will see the club re-locate to a new 30-acre site on land between Melton Road and Norwich Common.
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Mr Kilby said: 'This is a fantastic day for community sport in Norfolk.
'It has taken so many people years of hard work to achieve it, but finally we are going to be able to build a new home for this great club with the modern facilities our players and this town so badly needs.
'And we'll do it without using a penny of taxpayers' money.'
The vision is for 90 homes on the rugby club site on Tuttles Lane and a further 300 on a second piece of land off Norwich Common.
The new rugby club grounds will have multiple pitches for both adult and youth teams, a modern clubhouse with full facilities and a floodlit all-weather, 3G pitch which will be also be available for community use.
It is hoped construction on the new club will start later this year, with the first games being played in 2018.
David Brunton, the club's director of rugby, said the club had nearly 1,400 members and plans to grow further. He said: 'This is vital to the future of Wymondham RFC.
'Yet we have just two pitches of our own, playing surfaces that are mudbaths for months on end, completely inadequate parking and changing facilities and a clubhouse that is creaking at the seams.
'Now though we have the chance to create something really special for our club, for the local community and for rugby in Norfolk.'
A South Norfolk spokesman said the council was 'obviously disappointed' by the new ruling, saying: 'By refusing planning permission the council had tried to protect the important strategic gap that maintained the separation between Wymondham and Hethersett, but the secretary of state agreed with the planning inspector that the council's lack of a five-year land supply outweighed the harm the development will cause.'