New vision for former Pinebanks sports and leisure site in Norwich

A campaign backed by a Norwich MP, councillors and residents has been launched to bring sport back to a once popular site.

The Pinebanks sports and leisure facility, in Thorpe, was vacated and put on the market in April 2008.

Dozens of clubs based at the site, off Harvey Lane, were made homeless and forced to find other places to meet. The site, formerly owned by Norwich Union, now Aviva, was snapped up by a company called Berliet, with London-based Ocubis Ltd acting as its development managers, and it is understood that homes will eventually be built on the site.

While Ocubis indicated in April that it was considering 'a number of options' including sports and amenities, the details of what it will involve remain sketchy. However, a campaign has been launched to try and bring it back to community use.

Campaigners are keen to keep the pressure up on the developers, and Broadland district councillor John Fisher plans to meet representatives from Ocubis early next week to discuss options. He said: 'We are investigating the potential of a sports complex returning to the site. I want to meet the developers early next week to find out how much the price of the land would be, if they would be willing to sell it to a community body, and what their immediate plans are.

'In the meantime we are looking at identifying the need for a sports facility in the area, and finding out whether any sports bodies that previously used Pinebanks, would be interested in coming back.

'I would urge residents to back the campaign.'

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Norwich North MP Chloe Smith also recently met representatives from Sport England to discuss ways to make sure sport still happens at the site.

She is hoping next year's Olympic games could unlock funding to ensure it is once again used for sport.

She said: 'I strongly support having some sports use retained at the old Pinebanks site, and that may be a possible source of funding.

'Broadland council is in talks with the developers and residents are also trying to get involved in talks.

'I have asked Sports England to help community campaigners assess the evidence of need for sports facilities in the area. Residents are forming a strong campaign, which we want to see grow in two ways: firstly by evidence, and secondly by more residents adding their voices.

'Personally, I play badminton with a city club that used to be based there, so I have experience of need that has had to move elsewhere.

'So, I urge residents of Thorpe St Andrew or nearby to get in touch with any evidence they have of needs in the area, and to join the campaign group.

'I know Thorpe St Andrew residents will want to be involved in this exciting campaign.

'Obviously at this stage the site remains in the developers' hands and they have not yet submitted an application on which people could formally give their views, but we are confident that people do have views on how this site could stay as a real community asset.'

On Friday she joined representatives from Sport England at the site, along with campaigners who are determined that sport is included in whatever development happens there.

And she said she would explore whether funding could be obtained through the government's Olympic Legacy programme - which links in with next year's London 2012 Olympic Games.

The government and Olympic organisers have created a �135m scheme, called Places, People, Play, which is money Sport England is handing out.

It will train 40,000 volunteers, invest �50m in club facilities and �10m in playing fields over the next five years and Miss Smith hopes some of that might come Norwich's way.

Surveys have been carried out on the site and the developers have held meetings with Broadland District Council, but no formal plans have yet been tabled.

However, an attempt by the developers to remove a number of trees was blocked earlier this year after angry families protested.

Campaigners are also hoping to block a recent planning application which is seeking to change use of part of the former Pinebanks car park to a garden extension.

They believe that application is to pave the way for a land swap to provide access to the site.