WORK could start within two months on a £20m project to give a former Northumberland pit town a major regeneration boost.
The long-awaited scheme for a flagship new leisure and community centre in Ashington has taken a major step forwards after county councillors gave the plans the official green light.
The landmark, multi-purpose facility is to be built on the site of the former Asda supermarket and car park in Lintonville Terrace, and is intended to kick-start wider regeneration plans for the town centre.
Yesterday it was revealed that work could start as early as March, with the demolition of the derelict supermarket building getting under way.
The new centre – which is being funded by Northumberland County Council – will replace the town’s aging leisure centre in Institute Road, which was threatened with closure by the authority two years ago.
Three months ago, hundreds of people turned out to take a look when the plans were put on public display by the Arch Group, the council’s arms-length development company which is delivering the project.
The centre will include a swimming pool, sports hall, gym, spa, studio space, a public library, a contact and advice point for front line council services, a registrar’s office, cafe and meeting space. It is scheduled to open next year, when it is hoped it will play a key role in a development master plan for the town.
Yesterday Peter McIntyre, managing director of Arch Group, said: “The approval of the planning application is a major step forward for the project, and we are excited about turning the plans into reality.
“The development will be central to the wider revitalisation of Ashington town centre, and provide superb new leisure activities and community-based services for local people.”
County council leader Jeff Reid said: “We have been fully committed to providing these new facilities for Ashington, and the council has put its money where its mouth is by investing £20m to make the project the best it can be.
“The local community has been involved and consulted on this scheme from the outset, and their views listened to and taken on board. Ashington is now on its way to getting the high-quality community and leisure services it deserves.”
Neil Bradbury, the council’s executive member for leisure, added: “I’m delighted that after months of careful planning and preparation we have now been given the green light to build this exciting new facility for people who live, work and study in Ashington. The vision is about to become a reality.”
The detailed plans for the centre were designed by engineering consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, who are also producing a master plan for the area that will look at how the new facility links to the nearby town centre.
The council has put its money where its mouth is by investing £20m to make the project the best it can be