Trees at former Pinebanks sports centre in Norwich are spared the axe

Residents living near the former Pinebanks sports and leisure centre have successfully fought off plans to cut down a group of trees which they feared could lead to the first phase of the site's redevelopment.

Developer Ocubis Ltd wanted Broadland District Council to lift tree preservation orders to remove four whitebeam trees to allow new access to the site via Henby Way. The developer is working up plans which are likely to include homes, sports and recreational facilities on the former sports centre site.

But the trees proposal outraged nearby residents who feared it was a ruse to allow the whole site to be redeveloped.

On Wednesday night, more than 45 people, including Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, attended a second public meeting organised by the council aimed at addressing their concerns and answering criticisms of the authority's handling of the application amid accusations that the public were being kept in the dark about the planned redevelopment.

Phil Courtier, the council's head of development management and conservation, said that the authority had decided to reject the application because it would cause a loss of amenity.

And after pressure from residents, the authority also agreed to make it clear that the application had been rejected because the reasons for removing the trees were not valid.

However, the stay of execution is likely to be short-lived as the council expects the developer to put forward a plan for the whole site, but Mr Courtier said officers would prepare a planning note which residents could be involved in, showing the scale of development the council would consider acceptable.

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Mike Riches, 43, an IT worker from Henby Way, said the decision was a step in the right direction. 'We know that it doesn't end here... People power really has shown its worth.'

Sarah O'Hara, who also lives in Henby Way, said she was concerned that the council had not been alert to what the developer was planning and the episode had eroded her trust in the authority.

'Had we not done this, I get the feeling that this application wouldn't have been noticed,' she said.

Ward councillor John Fisher, who chaired the meeting, promised that residents would be kept informed in future.

Are you fighting a controversial planning application? Contact Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email