�2.5m Norwich football centre plans

Sarah HallFootball fans could be set for a massive boost if one of Norwich's biggest schools is successful with plans to develop a �2.5m all-weather soccer centre on part of its field.Sarah Hall

Football fans could be set for a massive boost if one of Norwich's biggest schools is successful with plans to develop a �2.5m all-weather soccer centre on part of its field.

The Hewett School wants to team up with sports organisation Goals Soccer Centres to build the state-of-the-art 2.1 hectare facility on its field at the corner of Hall Road and Lakenham Road.

Goals, which has more than 30 centres across the country, would create and run the centre, which would include a steel sports pavilion and 10 artificial grass sports pitches with lighting.

The plans are for eight five-a-side pitches and two seven-a-side pitches, which the school would be able to use during the day.

The community would be able to use the centre free of charge, which would create about 20 full-time equivalent jobs, at other times.

The Government Minister for the Department of Children, Schools and Families has given permission for the school to lease part of the playing field and an application for planning permission has now been lodged with Norwich City Council.

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The centre would be open from 9am until 11pm Monday to Thursday and from 9am until 10.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

The school is hoping city councillors will support the idea of improving access to the school site directly from the Hall Road entrance near McDonalds and increasing the size of the existing car park at that entrance.

Robert Anthony, associate head teacher said: 'This is a very exciting project and will bring significant benefits to the school, its students and the local community.'

In the documents supporting the application lodged with the city council, the architects who have designed the planned centre on behalf of Goals said: 'The proposed commercially funded development would be a state of the art facility, which will be available for use by the public at no cost at agreed times.

'The model of community use has been employed across the country and relies on maximising the commercial use of the facility in the weekday evenings, whilst allowing fee use via the school partner the rest of the time.

'Development would therefore greatly benefit the local and wider community. The proposal helps to achieve the aims of the government and the council's recreational and community policies, by providing a high quality facility in an ideal position for local schools. Moreover, the presence of this market leading facility in Norwich will enhance the status of the city.'

The plans were first mooted a year ago, but a number of families have concerns over the scheme, particularly about car parking, floodlights and plans to include a licensed bar in the pavilion.

Keith Farwell, who lives nearby and is a member of campaign group Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID), is one of the people concerned about the plans.

He said: 'The use of the playing fields for sports is something we support, but we do not feel this proposal is suitable. There is to be a car park with 95 spaces and we are concerned about the amount of traffic movement it will create.

'We are also very much concerned at the description of a pavilion when it will actually contain a licensed bar. These are school playing fields and we are not convinced that's the sort of place you should be having licensed premises, especially with it being in a residential area.'

He said RAID planned to distribute leaflets urging people to make their representations on the plans.

The RAID group also objected to proposals in 2004 to create a �10m sports and fitness centre on the grounds of the Hewett School.

But the proposals, which also included provision for nursery and nursing home, ran into opposition and had been due to go to public inquiry before the developer David Lloyd Leisure pulled out.

The new proposals are likely to come before members of the city council's planning committee later this year.

Do you have a schools story for the Evening News? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk