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Stephen Fry says demolition of Lakenham Cricket Pavilion is ‘sacrilege’

PUBLISHED: 11:08 23 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:35 23 October 2013

The pavilion at Lakenham, pictured in 2007.

The pavilion at Lakenham, pictured in 2007.

Archant © 2007

One of the city’s sporting landmarks - Lakenham Cricket Pavilion - is to be knocked down, after a planning inspector ruled councillors were wrong to block its demolition.

And Norfolk’s own Stephen Fry has taken to Twitter to criticise the inspector’s decision as ‘sacrilege’.

Members of Norwich City Council’s planning committee decided in February to turn down plans for the old cricket ground site - formerly the home of Norfolk cricket.

But applicant Serruys Property Company, which wanted to build 75 homes on the land off Carshalton Road in Lakenham, appealed against the decision.

And a planning inspector, following a public inquiry in August and a site visit in September, has allowed that appeal, granting outline planning permission for the site to be redeveloped.

The reasons given by the council in turning down the application were that the loss of the pavilion would be “detrimental” to the “local distinctiveness” of Lakenham, that there was not “adequate” compensation for the loss of open space and that it was likely to increase traffic.

At the appeal hearing, representatives for Serruys Property Company said the proposals included open space and the council was wrong to conclude the loss of the pavilion would have such an impact.

And planning inspector Tim Wood agreed. He said: “Although some opinions expressed state that the building is pleasing and of some merit, I consider that it does not display any particular aesthetic qualities but agree that it stands out in the local area as it is different to other buildings.

“There is no suggestion that the pavilion played any significant part in the history of county cricket and whilst I can understand that a fan of cricket may feel some attachment to a familiar ground and pavilion, this does not bestow historic significance on the building.”

He said, apart from sharing the family name and a part in the family business, there was no evidence of any “particular significance” of Captain Geoffrey Colman, which the city council had said the pavilion was built as a memorial to.

Mr Wood said: “Taking these matters together, I find there is very little significance in the pavilion or its setting. Although the proposals would result in its complete removal, I do not see this as a reason to resist the proposal.”

Mr Wood also said the lack of evidence for a five-year supply of land for housing in the Norwich Policy Area (which includes Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk) added weight to his “positive findings” for the proposal”.

The Lakenham Cricket Ground Residents’ Association had campaigned to save the pavilion and had been supported by cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, who said it would be “appalling” if the plans went ahead.

Terry Dunning, chairman of the resident’s association, said: “We are extremely disappointed because we felt the argument was finely balanced.

“It is a pity because I still believe the pavilion is an iconic building. Before it was allowed to go to rack and ruin I would go so far as to say it was beautiful.

“And, I know the inspector didn’t see it this way, but I think the history of cricket and the link to the Colman family was important.”

Norfolk Cricket Society tweeted Stephen Fry a link to our story asking: “Have you heard about the planned scandalous destruction of Lakenham cricket pavilion?”

And Mr Fry replied, referencing Norfolk’s Edrich cricketing family : “Nooooooo!!!! Where the Edriches sat and rubbed their bats with aniseed. Sacrilege!”

But Trevor Ivory, a planning partner at Howes Percival, who represented the landowner, said: “This decision is good news for Lakenham, but the impact will be felt across the whole of the Greater Norwich area.”

He said the inspector made clear the three local authorities had to share responsibility for sorting out the undersupply in homes, which he said meant they needed to “look favourably” on applications that can sustainably address the deficit.

City councillor Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for neighbourhood development, who gave evidence at the inquiry, said: “We are obviously disappointed with the result of the public inquiry, which will need careful consideration by my colleagues and me.

“Our concerns about the impact of the proposed development of this site still stand - views that are echoed by residents, who campaigned passionately to preserve this important area of open space and part of their local cultural heritage.

“I am saddened that the planning system does not allow more weight to be placed on the views of local people.”

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