Dreams of bringing speedway to Norfolk Showground lie in tatters

Artist's impression of the proposed Norwich Speedway track at the Norfolk Showground. Artist's impression of the proposed Norwich Speedway track at the Norfolk Showground.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
1:04 PM

Dreams of bringing speedway to the Norwich Showground look to be in tatters.

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At a press conference at the Norfolk Showground the proposals and plans for the News Firs Stadium and the return of speedway to Norwich on the site of the former driving range on the show ground.
Photo by Simon FinlayAt a press conference at the Norfolk Showground the proposals and plans for the News Firs Stadium and the return of speedway to Norwich on the site of the former driving range on the show ground. Photo by Simon Finlay

A consortium first announced its intention to revive the sport in the area for the first time in 50 years in July 2012. The company, New Firs Ltd, hoped to put a planning application in for the track and stadium last autumn.

But their dreams hit delays when New Firs and their planning consultants Lanpro had a disagreement over fees.

Lanpro said the project required “greater resources than initially envisaged” and Steve Ribbons from New Firs said the consortium had moved on and new planning consultants had been hired, meaning the track and stadium could be built by the summer.

It is now understood Lanpro is no longer working on the project, and Mr Ribbons declined to comment when contacted by the Norwich Evening News.

At a press conference at the Norfolk Showground the proposals and plans for the News Firs Stadium and the return of speedway to Norwich were announced by(l to r) former speedway star Ove Fundin, promoter Steve Ribbons, Louise Wilkinson from the show ground and ambassador Roy Blower.
Photo by Simon FinlayAt a press conference at the Norfolk Showground the proposals and plans for the News Firs Stadium and the return of speedway to Norwich were announced by(l to r) former speedway star Ove Fundin, promoter Steve Ribbons, Louise Wilkinson from the show ground and ambassador Roy Blower. Photo by Simon Finlay

Mystery now surrounds whether the project has collapsed but it seems clear that it will not be at the Norfolk Showground.

Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, which owns the showground, said: “Our trustees took the decision to not lease the land to the developers (New Firs) due to uncertainty about the amount of time being taken to bring the project to fruition.

“From our trustees’ point of view there were concerns that the project had become unviable and because time was drifting on and we had other priorities to concentrate on.

“We are continuing to look at a range of other options for the use of the site.”

Mr Ribbons, a businessman who has previously been involved in speedway projects at Rye House in Hertfordshire and Wimbledon, had been working alongside business partner Tim Dockerty on the project.

They had hired Leicester Lions Speedway boss David Hemsley, speedway track designer Clive Williams and appointed a new director, Adrian Brill, to submit the plans.

Mr Williams, an architect, designed the track at Leicester Speedway and brought the sport back to the city in 2011 with Mr Hemsley.

The plans were for a 360-metre track with a 480-seater temporary stadium on an 11-hectare development on the site of the former golf driving range.

It would revive the sport in the city for the first time since the Firs stadium in Hellesdon closed in 1964.

The team would enter the national league, the third division of speedway, and Mr Ribbons said he hoped to establish the team over a couple of years and be promoted to higher leagues.

When the plans were revealed last July, opinion was split over whether a track should be built on the showground’s eastern edge.

Opponents believe speedway would be too noisy for a track to be built close to homes in Costessey and Easton and new housing developments at Queen’s Hills and Lodge Farm.

But supporters argue the noise is far less than opponents make out and want to see the sport brought back to the city.

Tim East, county councillor for Costessey, said: “I’m not delighted that the project is not going forward because I am a supporter of speedway coming back to the city, but the showground was an inappropriate location. That is what has caused this scheme to fall by the wayside.

“It’s sad, but it’s not a viable location, in the middle of potentially three and a half thousand houses. Any objector developing those house would have objected to it.”

- Do you think there is still potential for speedway to return to Norwich? Leave your comments below.

Related links

VIDEO: Plans for speedway’s return to Norwich revealed

Dreams of bringing speedway back to Norwich delayed but not dead

Norwich speedway bid at Norfolk Showground “back on track”

Video: New Norwich speedway track would be “a force for good”

Photo Gallery: Derek James looks back on the history of speedway in Norwich

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