A SEASIDE town’s council-owned leisure centre could be handed over to governors of a £48m academy school to help improve sports facilities for hundreds of local students.
Talks are taking place on transferring the management and operation of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea sports and community centre to the all-age Northumberland Church of England Academy.
If it goes ahead, the proposal would result in the centre being run independently of the county council, and operated as a social enterprise by an academy trust.
The idea would be for the 500 students based at the academy’s Grace Darling primary campus in Newbiggin to use the centre on a daily basis for their sports and PE requirements.
The move is seen as a way of helping to get more local youngsters involved in physical activity and leading healthier lifestyles, as well as boosting usage of the centre. Yesterday it was said that the proposed transfer will not affect the general public’s ability to access and use the sports centre, which has been at the hub of local life for decades.
The Northumberland Church of England Academy is based at the former Hirst High School in Ashington, now known as the Josephine Butler campus. It also has a number of primary campuses in Newbiggin, Ashington and Lynemouth, which children attend from the age of five to 11. The brand new Newbiggin campus will open to pupils in September.
A report on the proposed transfer of the sports centre to the academy is due to be discussed by the county council’s executive next month. Yesterday Alan Thompson, a member of the Liberal Democrat executive who represents Newbiggin on the council, said he believed the move would be good news for the town, and local students.
He said: “Children who go to the Grace Darling campus from the age of five will be using the centre as their sports facility on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the centre is under-used at present and is nearly empty during the day.
“We need to get more people in there, and the transfer to the academy trust would also mean we can promote healthy lifestyles for the pupils and support the development of all sorts of sports. The centre will be open to everyone in Newbiggin just as it is now, but the great benefit is that it will have another 500 users on a daily basis.”
Paul Moffat, the county council’s corporate director of children’s services, said: “The local authority receives proposals from a range of providers, including the academy, and these are considered as part of our service planning arrangements. There have been some early discussions with the academy regarding the future of Newbiggin leisure centre but there are no definitive proposals at this time.”
The academy failed to respond to a request to comment.