A full design for the work to refurbish Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre and remodel internal parts of the building to improve existing facilities will now be drawn up, with the hope of starting on site early in 2021 for completion by the summer.
At a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s cabinet, where the funding was approved, the authority’s leader, Peter Jackson, said: “Every time I went there, I was embarrassed by the lack of investment over many years.
“It’s quite obviously been neglected and it’s high time they got the investment they actually deserve as a community.”
Plans include the relocation of the library within the centre, the creation of a community café and improved changing facilities, including for outdoor sports.
They also feature the creation of a dedicated spinning studio, the re-covering of the sports hall floor, the refurbishment of the squash courts, including the viewing gallery, and the centre being redecorated throughout.
There is also a proposal to provide changing facilities for adults with additional needs or older children who need privacy and space, and a new reception offer including self-service options.
Coun Cath Homer, the cabinet member for leisure, said: “I want to pay tribute to the work that’s gone into this, because there were lots of conflicting demands about what people would want and it’s been quite a long journey.
“I think we have got to the point where everyone agrees that this is a real game-changer.”
Coun Richard Wearmouth added: “Newbiggin is a bit of a forgotten community in many respects and this investment will make a huge difference to what goes on there.”
As previously reported, AFC Newbiggin recently received planning permission for a new football pitch and clubhouse on a nearby site as it seeks to improve its facilities, however, the report states that ‘the refurbishment proposal provides an opportunity to support these aims and retain the club at the existing centre’.
The report also notes that a study commissioned by operator Active Northumberland ‘concluded that there is minimal opportunity to grow income from an improved commercial offer and instead that improvements should be targeted at those services which would impact positively upon health, social care and learning in an area with high deprivation and need’.
After the meeting, the deputy leader of the opposition Labour group paid tribute to Newbiggin Central and East member Liz Simpson ‘whose tireless campaigning and lobbying contributed to the refurbishment scheme being given the green light’.
Coun Scott Dickinson said: “Facilities like this can be the life-blood of a community, but they stand up to a lot of wear and tear. They need to also change with the times and respond to what the local community needs.
“There is no doubt that Liz’s grit and determination to improve facilities in her town was a major factor in getting this decision over the line. She is totally dedicated to the people she serves.”