New sports centre proposal for eyesore Norwich site

Ambitious plans which could see a new sports centre and more than 80 new homes built on a site steeped in history have been dramatically resurrected.

For more than three years, the Lakenham Sports and Leisure Centre site in Cricket Ground Road has stood empty, gradually becoming an eyesore, following the centre's closure.

But, after fraud allegations were dropped against the owner of the land, fresh plans have been drawn up which would see new life breathed into the site.

Families living near the site, which was home to Norfolk Cricket Club for more than 170 years until the move to Horsford in 2000, have been sent proposals which could see a new sports centre and houses built there.

The Lakenham Sports and Leisure Centre site in Cricket Ground Road closed in July 2007 after Norfolk County Council used a compulsory purchase order to obtain part of the land.

That was turned into a playing field for pupils of the new Lakenham Primary School, but plans to turn the rest of the site into a sports centre of excellence, along with 200 flats, had stalled because of a disagreement between the landowners and the county council.

The scheme then suffered a further blow after scrap metal entrepreneur Andre Serruys, the owner of the land, had his assets frozen in 2008 following allegations of fraud by waste giant SITA UK.

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The allegations related to the sale of Mr Serruys' Lenwade-based scrap metal business Easco to SITA in May 2007 and sparked a High Court battle - which meant the development at the Lakenham site was put on ice.

However, the case was settled out of court earlier this month and Mr Serruys has wasted no time in getting back to his plan to develop the site.

The proposals include the north part of the site being developed for housing which will be integrated with Cricket Ground and Smithfield Road.

On the southern part of the site, there are two options. One is for a sports centre - at a time when the sports hall at Wensum Lodge is set to be closed - and the other is for a care facility and 28 affordable homes promoted by specialist head injury charity Norwich Headway, Broadland Housing Association and the Papworth Trust.

New landscaped public open space and a play area will be included as part of the plans.

David Fairbairn, Lib Dem city councillor for Lakenham, said it was important residents made their views known about the plans.

'What's proposed looks quite density and that's the thing I assume most people would be concerned about,' Mr Fairbairn said. 'I would certainly like to see a lower density of housing development.

'We are trying to arrange a public meeting with the developer so they can given a presentation and make their case for what they are proposing to do.'

Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South, has written to families living near the site and has been in touch with Lanpro Ltd, the agents for Mr Serruys about the proposals.

The Liberal Democrat MP said: 'This site is hugely important to the local community, but has been left unused and un-maintained for years now since the closure of the sports and leisure centre. It's also a site of historic importance, having previously hosted Norfolk Cricket Club for over 170 years.

'Many people in the area has passionate feelings about the grounds, and its important that their views are heard and taken into account by the site owners and prospective developers.

'Along with Lakenham's Lib Dem councillors I have written to hundreds of households in the area encouraging them to write in with their opinions on what is being proposed.

'I've also written to Lanpro Ltd to ask that they consider holding a public meeting for residents to be able to voice their views and feed directly in to the process.'

A spokesman for Serruys Property Company Ltd said the leaflets had been delivered to 700 homes and they were keen to hear their views on the scheme, ahead of a planning application being lodged with the city council.

He added: 'SPC is promoting a meaningful and realistic set of development proposals to bring the site back into full use. It is now down to the community and the Norwich City Council planning members to decide its future.'

Anyone with comments should get in touch with Lanpro by December 22. People can email or write to Lanpro Services, 4 St Mary's House, Duke Street, Norwich NR3 1QA.

• What do you think of the plans? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email