A new schools and leisure complex for Ponteland has come a step closer, after Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee agreed that it was ‘minded to approve’ the scheme at its meeting on Thursday night (11 January).
The multi-million pound project will see new state of the art primary and secondary schools alongside leisure and cultural facilities, all based on the site of the existing leisure centre on Callerton Lane.
The application is for demolition of the existing leisure centre and construction of the new schools and leisure centre, along with associated parking, infrastructure and playing fields.
The two schools will have separate identities but be part of an integrated facility which will allow easy access to community facilities outside school hours.
The community and leisure facilities will include a 100 station gym, 25 metre swimming pool, a learner pool, toddler aqua play area, climbing wall, soft play area, library, community cafe, dance studios, sports hall, performance space, a community cinema, and lifelong learning spaces.
Northumberland County Councillor Eileen Armstrong, ward member for Ponteland East and Stannington, said:
“This is the next step in securing fantastic new education and leisure facilities for the Ponteland area.
“Ensuring that there are top quality learning environments for our young people is a very high priority for us, and this development will provide modern facilities for students for years into the future.
“We also look forward to providing brand new top quality leisure facilities for use by pupils, the local community and visitors to the area.
“I am very pleased to say that the new plans have addressed issues previously raised by the local community, and we expect that the community building will serve as an exemplar to others for a learning and community campus.
Councillor Peter Jackson, leader of the county council, added: “This administration is determined to drive up standards in education in Northumberland so that we no longer languish below the national average.
“Part of this drive is a willingness to invest in our schools. So we have increased school places in communities where they are needed such as Blyth and Morpeth. We have invested in new facilities for young people with special educational needs in Hexham and Ashington and now we are replacing outdated buildings in Ponteland.
“We are addressing longstanding issues across the whole county.”
The site at Ponteland will include new parking and drop off facilities which will also support community events and sporting clubs. Sports pitches will be retained and enhanced to maintain continuity of local sporting clubs and there will be new all-weather sporting areas.
Reorganisation is already underway for the majority of schools in the Ponteland partnership as first schools became primaries and Richard Coates CE School lowered its age range to include the primary phase from September last year (2017).
Whalton, Stamfordham, Belsay and Heddon-on-the-Wall are all now enjoying the additional classrooms that have been constructed to enable reorganisation, and Darras Hall Primary School’s new build is well under construction and will be completed for September 2018.
Ponteland High School will extend its age range to 11 to 18 from September 2019 and receive its first cohort of year 7 and 8 students then.
The schedule for the new development aims for construction and completion of the school buildings by September 2019.
Once the final go-ahead is given the council will be working very closely with all schools, parents and the local community to make sure that any disruption for students and families during development and changes is kept to a minimum.
In line with normal protocol for a major proposal of this type, the council’s decision on the project will now be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit for determination from the Secretary of State on whether he wishes to call-in the application for his own determination.