Morpeth Leisure Centre budget increased to £21million to include library and other services

Morpeth Leisure Centre budget increased to £21million to include library and other services

Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 12:45 pm
Coun David Bawn, Coun Peter Jackson, Coun Cath Homer and Coun Richard Wearmouth outside the current leisure centre in Morpeth.

Councillors have agreed to increase the overall budget for the new Morpeth Leisure Centre to £21million so it can also house other council services.

As revealed to residents at drop-in events in the town last month, Northumberland County Council’s plans for a new leisure centre at The Terrace site, off Gas House Lane, now include relocating the library, adult learning and customer services to the new building.

At Tuesday’s (October 8) meeting of the authority’s cabinet, members agreed to increase the budget for the project from £18million up to £21million to cover both the ‘community services hub’ and some necessary flood mitigation work.

The report to councillors explains that design work has established a total internal area for the new leisure centre of 5,730m² against the existing 3,150m².

This increase allows for the community services to be included, but also an improvement in the facilities, such as a six-lane pool, a learner pool and a ‘significantly larger’ fitness suite and studio spaces.

It is hoped a planning application will be submitted this month, with construction works expected to commence in April next year and a projected completion in October 2021.

Coun Cath Homer, the cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism, said: “This is long overdue and I think this is the way forward.

“We have successfully co-located services and if it’s done properly – we have planned it properly and they are not just shoved together – the feedback from residents is that it’s difficult to know where you need to go for different services when they are in different locations.”

Coun Richard Wearmouth, who represents one of the town’s wards, said: “It’s a welcome scheme for Morpeth and makes real sense.

“Last time we discussed this, it was about leisure services. Now we are talking about council services in the town.

“The library in Manchester Street was meant to be a temporary solution after the floods and it hasn’t been and it’s quite an expensive solution.”

He added: “In due course, everyone will be interested to see what’s happening with the current leisure centre site and the potential for capital receipts to underpin this development.”

Council leader Peter Jackson described it as ‘really exciting’, explaining that he had recently visited the Wentworth Leisure Centre in Hexham.

“The adult learning service moved in there some months ago and they are really happy,” he said. “They tell me it’s used by 350 people a week.

“Our adult learning service is one of the best in the north, if not the country, so why not build on success?”

The cabinet also approved the award of the contract for the refurbishment of Blyth Leisure Centre, for which a budget of £5.5million has already been agreed, as and when required.