Leisure centre plan is unveiled

A redevelopment of the current site has been identified as the preferred option for Berwick's new leisure centre.

Thursday, 16th March 2017, 10:28 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:06 am
Swan Leisure Centre, Berwick.

Active Northumberland favours building the new £19million complex on the southern portion of the Swan Centre site in Tweedmouth.

Damon Barnaby, project manager, said: “The existing site is now the preferred option. It’s a big site which is in our ownership and it enables us to deliver a new leisure centre in the most effective timescale.”

Active Northumberland's preferred option for new leisure facilities on the Swan Centre site in Tweedmouth.

The initial plans were presented at public drop-in sessions earlier this week.

They include a six-lane 25m swimming pool capable of staging competitions, a training pool and wet play facility.

There is also provision for a 100-station gym, two fitness studios, a spinning studio, ten-pin bowling alley, climbing facility, a multi-level soft play area and cafe.

However, an athletics track and artificial football pitch do not form part of the current plans and are unlikely to be added unless their financial viability can be proven.

Active Northumberland's preferred option for new leisure facilities on the Swan Centre site in Tweedmouth.

Active Northumberland maintains that it is more cost-effective to build a new facility rather than refurbish the existing one.

“The running costs of the Swan Centre are 60 per cent higher than the average for similar sites in Northumberland,” revealed Mr Barnaby.

“We want to make the facility viable for the long-term both for residents and tourists. We want it to be a leisure destination where visitors can spend the whole day.”

Several alternatives sites were looked at but at this stage appear to have been ruled out.

A site next to Shielfield Park, the home of Berwick Rangers, was deemed too small, while land at Roberts Lodge and Newfields was judged to be too far out of town.

Sites at Berwick Academy and Berwick Middle School were also considered but discounted due to the difficulties of acquiring school playing fields.

“We came to the conclusion that the existing site, on one of the main arteries into the town, presents the best option,” said Mr Barnaby.

Another potential alternative was the East Ord site identified by the Berwick Stadium Trust for its proposed sports complex and 4,000 seat stadium.

However, Mr Barnaby said that until potential funding for that scheme became clear it was difficult to consider.

“We are not discounting that option but it seems a long way off at the moment,” he said.

Three options have been presented for the remodelling of the Swan Centre site.

Active Northumberland believes a development on the southernmost part of the site would work best in that the sloping nature of that part of the site could help to shield it from view.

This option would also enable parts of the current centre to be kept open while the new complex is built.

The two other options are developing at the rear of the site, on the existing football pitch, although this would be close to homes on Dean Drive; and building closer to the Homebase and Farmfoods shops but this would restrict the size of the development.

Membership of the new Ashington leisure centre has doubled from 660 to over 1,350 since it was built, while the number of swimming lessons has risen from 350 to 470.

“We want to achieve those kinds of figures in Berwick too,” said Mr Barnaby.