£20m Ashington Leisure Centre set for approval

AMBITIOUS plans for a £20m leisure centre in a Northumberland town look set to be given the green light next month.

An artist's impression of the planned new Ashington Leisure Centre

AMBITIOUS plans for a £20m leisure centre in a Northumberland town look set to be given the green light next month.

The new centre in the heart of Ashington is being recommended for approval by planners after not a single objection was received by any of 14 statutory consultees or the public.

The county council planning committee meets in Morpeth to make a decision on January 8.

But from 163 formal notifications issued, no objections have been made and only one nearby resident has raised concerns about the possibility of increased traffic. The new Ashington Community and Leisure Facility would be situated on the former Asda supermarket site in Lintonville.

It would replace the existing leisure centre at Institute Road as well as the town’s library and registrar services.

The plan is being driven forward by the council-linked regeneration company Arch Development Projects Ltd, which has its base in Ashington.

The county council has made a “significant” financial contribution to the centre, which will feature a new swimming pool, gym, spa, sports hall and a studio space which will host classes and activities.

The leisure centre has been the subject of a major public consultation, with over 2,000 people and organisations providing feedback on what they would like to see in the new unit. Arch Group managing director Peter McIntyre said that the centre would act as a catalyst for further improvements to Ashington town centre.

“The new Community and Leisure Facility is at the heart of plans to regenerate and revitalise Ashington town centre,” he said.

“It will provide high-quality leisure activities and community-based services for local people.”

While the Arch Group was set up last year by Northumberland County Council, it is completely financially independent of the council’s budget.

Arch has its own £50m asset base to generate rental income from homes and commercial units, with profits being reinvested.

The proposed new Ashington leisure centre site has stood vacant since Asda moved a short distance to the west in 2009.

It stands only 160 metres from the town centre bus station and is close to main routes through the town.

The site would include parking for 120 vehicles.

A planning officers’ report to the council says: “A mixed use environment is key to creating a vibrant town centre, spreading activity throughout the day and into the evening.

“It is considered that the development would achieve a high standard of urban design at a gateway into the town ... and provide key social, recreational and cultural facilities to the immediate and wider geographic area.

“Potential impacts on the closest residential properties approximately 140 metres to the south-east at Viewlands Estate would be limited.

“It would provide a landmark building at the northern gateway into Ashington.”

If planning permission is given on January 8, building work is expected to begin in spring.

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