Concern over tree felling plans at Pinebanks site

People living near a former popular sports and leisure centre have expressed concern after it emerged plans to fell 'preserved' trees to allow access to the site had been submitted.

The derelict state of Pinebanks, formerly owned by Norwich Union, now Aviva, which closed two-and-a-half years ago, had prompted community leaders to brand it a 'tragedy' amid calls for the developers to come clean about their future plans.

Earlier this month the firm responsible for developing the site, off Harvey Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, revealed that plans being considered include sporting and amenity provision as well as residential use.

But it has since emerged that an application has been submitted to Broadland District Council to fell five trees, all protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) in Henby Way to facilitate new access to the site.

People living in Henby Way, off Gordon Avenue, Thorpe St Andrew, are 'up in arms' about the application which they say has been made without any public consultation.

Mike Riches, 43, an IT worker from Henby Way, is one of those to have written to the council, as well as Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, to express his concerns.

He said: 'My main concern is the this application to fell trees seems to be a veiled application for something else which hasn't got permission - an access road from Henby Way to the Pinebanks site.

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'It's a bit worrying to see how its got so far without any public consultation - no notices have been put up - and bearing in mind those trees are under a tree preservation order. We would like to see a judicial review.' Mr Riches, a former Norwich Union worker and member of the former Norwich Union Athletic Association who used Pinebanks, said he 'would love' to see sporting facilities returned to the site as part of any new development but was concerned about access to the site from Henby Way.

He said: 'Henby Way is all built on a landfill site and I don't really think that road could stand an increase in traffic and certainly not construction traffic.'

Broadland District Council's conservation manager Barbara Hornbrook said: 'This application is to carry out work to protected trees, and is not a planning application. As such, the council has no statutory requirement to advertise it, although as a matter of course we have informed the local parish tree wardens, the parish council and the relevant Broadland district councillors.

'In addition, we do understand that this application has generated quite a lot of interest from nearby residents, which is why we plan to consider further neighbour representations before coming to a decision. Residents can be reassured no decision will be made without their views being taken into account.'

The Evening News contacted Stuart Adolph from Ocubis Ltd, development managers for the site which is now owned by Berliet LLP, but no-one was available for comment.