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Why Norwich Rugby Club’s long-awaited move to the UEA has been put on hold

PUBLISHED: 09:06 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:06 17 August 2018

The current clubhouse, located at Beeston Hyrne. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The current clubhouse, located at Beeston Hyrne. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Controversial plans to relocate Norwich Rugby Club to the UEA have been put on hold.

The club hoped to fund the move through the sale of its existing home, off North Walsham Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe club hoped to fund the move through the sale of its existing home, off North Walsham Road. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

We can reveal the club has had to delay its move to the University of East Anglia (UEA) because it says the council wants a roundabout built.

The club, which is currently based at Beeston Hyrne, received planning permission in 2016 to relocate to the UEA’s Colney Lane playing fields, despite a string of objections.

It had hoped to fund the move through the sale of its existing home, off North Walsham Road, to a housing developer.

But club president Andy Pott said an “unnecessary highways requirement” could now jeopardise the plans.

Impressions of what Norwich Rugby Club's new home would look like. Picture: SuppliedImpressions of what Norwich Rugby Club's new home would look like. Picture: Supplied

He claimed Norfolk County Council now requires a roundabout to be built alongside any new housing development at the club site.

“It is a very disappointing situation at the moment,” Mr Pott said.

“Our developers would have to put in the roundabout and that massively reduces the proceeds we were anticipating from the sale of the land.”

He said the club was hoping to generate around £6m to £6.5m from the sale of its current site.

Picture by Mike Page. Picture shows:UEA Sports ground where Norwich Rugby Club are hoping to move.Picture by Mike Page. Picture shows:UEA Sports ground where Norwich Rugby Club are hoping to move.

That money would then be used to pay for the new facility, which will include new pitches, a club house and car park.

But Mr Pott said a new roundabout could cost between £1m to £2m to install - leaving the club with far less to spend.

He said: “The highways authority has told us this is only a temporary roundabout because they are going to realign North Walsham Road within five years.

“I can’t imagine anyone is going to want to spend anything up to £2m on a roundabout that is going be required for up to five years.

“We believe there is a problem with moving without sufficient funds to produce the quality of facility we would like to provide.

“So for the time being things are on hold until we can resolve what appears to be an unnecessary highways requirement.”

Mr Pott said he understood the concerns of the highways department in regard to access to the club site, as the B1150 is currently a 60mph road.

But he believed reducing the speed limit would be a more “sensible” solution.

He added: “Given there is now going to be a significant amount of housing in this area, they are going to have to change the speed limit and encourage people to slow down.”

Norfolk County Council confirmed that it was working with the club and developer to explore options for the junction.

But a council spokesman did not answer questions about whether the roundabout would be temporary.

The council spokesman said: “It’s our duty to ensure that safe and appropriate access to all proposed residential development is provided.

“And we are working with the rugby club and developer to explore options to do this, one of which could be a roundabout onto the B1150.

“Whatever solution is decided upon will still need to be approved by the local planning authority.”

Mr Pott claimed a planning application for the club site is yet to be submitted as the highways issue was only raised at the end of July.

He said: “We want to meet with councillors and ask if this is really essential, because it is going to be extremely expensive and put in jeopardy our move to the UEA.”

The rugby club’s plans, which were submitted jointly with the UEA, were approved by South Norfolk District Council’s planning committee in November 2016.

Speaking at the time, Mr Pott hoped the move could take place in time for the 2018/19 season.

While there was a lot of support for the scheme, of the 400 comments lodged with the application, 250 were objections.

Concerns included flood risk, congestion on surrounding roads and loss of wildlife habitat.

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.”

The UEA was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

However, speaking in 2016 when the plans were approved, a UEA spokesman 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.”

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