Two more multi-million pound leisure centres are to be built in key Northumberland locations as part of Labour’s Market Towns Initiative, under plans revealed today by county council chiefs.
News of the new venues for Berwick and Blyth follows the council announcing that Morpeth is earmarked for a replacement leisure centre plus library, with a hotel complex completing the riverside site in the county town.
Council leader Grant Davey said: “I am very aware of the demand and need for 21st century leisure and culture facilities in both Blyth and Berwick, particularly to ensure the wellbeing needs of our communities are served correctly.
“Blyth Leisure Centre is 60 years old – the baths were designed by the famous architect John Poulson. Berwick is newer but the concept of joining steel frame buildings to form a single unit has led to an itty-bitty look that has many undesirable features for modern use.
“Both buildings were built for their time and are not up to the current standards that our residents deserve for modern leisure and culture use.
“So I am delighted to report that this administration is now actively searching for two suitable sites. Just like with our new Morpeth scheme, we would like to involve local residents in giving their views on the sort of facilities they would want to see included.
“And again just like Morpeth, the new leisure centres will provide even more reasons for people to enjoy our regenerated towns.”
The announcement comes days after the rejection by a full council meeting of a call by Tory group leader Peter Jackson to halt the sale of the council’s outdated HQ and surrounding land in Morpeth. Millions of pounds raised from the sale will underpin further regeneration of the county’s market towns with projects such as these leisure centres.
Lorraine Dewison, chief executive of Active Northumberland which runs leisure services for the council, welcomed the plans for two new centres: “This is a wonderful opportunity for residents in and around both these town, who really need 21st century facilities.
“Northumberland will benefit from having the largest number of high-quality leisure facilities in the North of England. Health and fitness, combined with better cultural opportunities, will improve people’s lives while the increased tourism helps the county’s economy.”
Gavin Jones, county councillor for Berwick North added: “News of plans to build a new leisure centre in the town are very welcome, and show a confidence in the community of Berwick.
“This will represent one of the most significant investments in the town for many years, and is the result of local councillors working in partnership with the council’s administration for the good of the area.
“Good quality modern leisure facilities are extremely important for health and wellbeing, and I look forward to working with the council and the local community to establish exactly what sort of facilities they would like to see here.”