Morpeth leisure scheme given the green light at virtual planning committee

Our plans to bring a multi-million-pound mixed-use leisure scheme to Morpeth have been given the go ahead following a successful virtual planning committee meeting.

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. The process worked well with members of the public able to view the meeting on Northumberland County Council’s YouTube channel.

Designing a scheme that responds to its surroundings

Paul Reed is heading up the project. He 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 – 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 several 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.”

Collaborative working to bring the scheme to life

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 team includes: QS, employers’ agent and principal designer Henry Riley, M&E engineer Desco, civil and structural engineer Buro Happold, landscape architect Oobe, transport consultant SAJ and planning firm DPP.

The scheme is due to start on site this Autumn and is expected to complete by Spring 2022.

To find out more about our diverse portfolio of work, please head over to our projects page.