PLANS to bring a multi-million-pound mixed-use leisure scheme to Morpeth, Northumberland have been given the go ahead following a successful virtual planning committee meeting.
Designed by GT3 Architects, the £21million scheme funded by Northumberland County Council will deliver a first-class leisure centre and community hub for the historic market town. The 1.1hA site is located on the edge of the town centre conservation area and sits beside the river Wansbeck, acting as a bookend to the high street.
To ensure the project continued as scheduled the planning meeting was held virtually, with members of the public able to view the process on Northumberland County Council’s YouTube channel.
Paul Reed, associate director at GT3 Architects, said: “We’re thrilled to achieve planning consent, particularly through a virtual committee meeting as social distancing has caused a real stumbling block for a lot of projects.
“We worked closely with Advance Northumberland – the development arm of Northumberland County Council responsible for regeneration – and Henry Riley to ensure the design responded to its surroundings. We wanted the scheme to feel like an extension of the town centre, so we included small details such as a view from the glazed pool hall directly down the high street.
“We also included plenty of communal, barrier free space within the wider design to create a destination area. We want to bring people from the centre towards the riverside setting but also give them a reason to stay.”
The centre will include a six-lane swimming pool with spectator gallery, spa facilities, a four-court sports hall, a new 100 station fitness suite, a dedicated spinning studio, large fitness studios, a cafe area, and soft play. It will also house the new library and an adult learning facility with classrooms for STEM learning and catering.
Paul added: “Given the location of the site, we also had a few complex design aspects to incorporate. The scheme is sat adjacent to the river – which is liable to flooding – so the whole building has been lifted 1.1m above the ground. There are also a number of protected trees on the site, so we had to design a building with zero impact on the roots which also sat sympathetically within the site.
“We’re therefore very pleased to achieve planning permission during this difficult time and are looking forward to the next stage of the project.”
Northumberland County Councillor Cath Homer, Cabinet Member for Culture, Arts, Leisure and Tourism, said: “The design plans put forward by GT3 Architects for the new leisure scheme are ambitious and forward-looking so I’m delighted that they have secured planning permission. The new centre will be a real asset for the town and a wonderful place, with great facilities, for residents and visitors to enjoy for many years to come.”
The project is due to start on site this Autumn and is expected to complete by Spring 2022.