Protectors of the Yare Valley maintain objections to rugby club development at UEA

Picture by Mike Page.Picture shows:UEA Sports ground

Picture by Mike Page.Picture shows:UEA Sports ground

Protecting the sanctity of the Yare Valley must come ahead of new sports facilities, say opponents of Norwich Rugby Club's planned move to the University of East Anglia.

The Norwich Rugby Club clubhouse near Spixworth pictured in 1970, as the club moved in.

The Norwich Rugby Club clubhouse near Spixworth pictured in 1970, as the club moved in. - Credit: Archant

After dozens of objections were filed against plans to move the club from its current home at Beeston Hyrne, near Spixworth, a number of changes have now been made.

Revised plans, submitted jointly with UEA to South Norfolk Council, include new landscaping around the area, sports pitches, taking the total number to 32, a new pavilion/club house, which would include a café, changing room, club room and bar, new footpath and cycleway, an extension to the Colney Lane car park from 37 to 87 spaces, a new 168-space car park (reduced from the original 208 space proposal) and 100 cycle spaces.

John Thurman, member of the Yare Valley Society committee, said he has fundamental objections to the site.

'There are long standing planning policies that protect the river valleys and open spaces around the city,' he said. 'This revised plan still contains a large car park and club house, and does not address the adverse effects on biodiversity and traffic.

'It is essentially a green space, and in the midst of that green space the proposal still remains to have a very large car park and large building, and it will urbanise the area.

'It is very detrimental to the landscape and goes against protection of the river valley.

'We are not really satisfied alternative sites have been explored, and it seems strange to us the rugby club sold its site without having a place to go.

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'This part of the county is very well provided for with rugby clubs, and we have them in Wymondham and Little Melton. One club has objected to the scheme because they feel there is not sufficient demand.

'The scheme is inappropriate for this site. If it has just been playing fields that would be a different matter bit a car park and club house is detrimental to the landscape.'

The vast majority of objections to the original application cited the damage done to the Yare Valley as a reason why it should be refused.

But local rugby clubs had also raised concerns, including Crusaders RFC, who said the move could affect their catchment zone and threaten their future.

Phil Steele, director of sport at UEA, said: 'I think the most important thing is we see this as a huge improvement, not just to university facilities but to facilities that will be available to the community.

'At the moment the outdoor sports facilities at Colney Lane are not, apart from very few occasions, available for community use.

'What this will do is enable enhanced facilities to be made available.'

Mr Steele added discussions have been made to minimise the impact on Crusaders RFC.

'From the conversations we have had it seems Crusaders is the only club that could be impacted,' he said. 'We understand people travel much further to play rugby than other sports, and therefore, based on information from Sports England and the RFU, the distance and location of the club is less critical.

'My role is to get people playing sport, and if I ever thought this was going to compromise other sporting events I would rethink it.

'I believe we have done as much as we can to maintain the look and feel of the Yare Valley but also sustain what is an existing playing field site.

'One of the over arching outcomes is the university would be able to open the area up for community use once again, and in light of the physical activity agenda this country is facing we feel that is a really important benefit to allow this project to go ahead.'