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Sports centre bid given green light

PUBLISHED: 17:28 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:15 03 July 2010

A £300,000 scheme to repackage a former cardboard box factory as a family entertainment and sports centre was given the green light this week.

Borough councillors approved plans which will see the former Merlin packaging building on the Harfrey's Industrial Estate in Great Yarmouth transformed into a sports centre with a focus on football.

A £300,000 scheme to repackage a former cardboard box factory as a family entertainment and sports centre was given the green light this week.

Borough councillors approved plans which will see the former Merlin packaging building on the Harfrey's Industrial Estate in Great Yarmouth transformed into a sports centre with a focus on football.

Under the scheme, 25,000sq ft will be transformed into a lounge area separated from a jungle-themed soft play area, party room and two indoor football pitches - one for mini soccer and another, larger one.

The centre will create eight full-time and nine part-time jobs.

The plans, by businessman Kevan Whitbread, had sparked concern among a few members of the council's development control committee at its meeting on Tuesday.

Labour councillor Tony Blyth thought the premises should have been kept for industrial use and not for leisure.

He said Yarmouth was short of industrial land and if the scheme was approved the council would regret the decision in years to come.

Planning officers had also raised concerns over parking at the premises, which has about 43 spaces. County council policy suggested such a scheme should have about 96 spaces.

Mr Whitbread, managing director of Inkbox, said: “The primary times the centre will be used is at evenings and weekends. I did spend several hours vehicle-counting on the industrial estate and during the weekend there is hardly any traffic.”

He reassured councillors that parking would not be a problem at the centre because people attending - either to play football or for a children's party - were dropped off or lift-shared.

Mr Whitbread said: “I play eight-a-side football on Thursdays and we never use more than six cars because we lift-share, and with children's parties around 60pc are dropped off by parents who pick them up later.”

Labour councillor Michael Jeal spoke in favour of the scheme and could see no reason why a sports centre should not be on an industrial estate.

“I have seen many sporting facilities in industrial areas in Norwich and Newcastle. There isn't a lot for kids to do so I think another facility would be good,” he said.

The council's economic development officer had objected on the grounds that the outer harbour would change the nature of demand for land.

Tory councillor George Jermany said he knew of other warehouses in the town which were standing empty and that waiting for the outer harbour to open was not an option.

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