Workers are now digging in to create a major new sporting facility in Ponteland.
The £450,000 funding for the state-of-the-art 9x9 artificial football pitch, which will be located within the grounds of Ponteland Middle School next to the old railway line, was secured earlier this year.
The final stage before it could be constructed was a 30-day trapping exercise for great crested newts in case any decided to hibernate on the field.
None were found during the period – only one vole and one shrew were found. To encourage the newts to remain by the pond, the school’s eco team created refugia and hibernacula by the pond area.
The facility will be used by pupils from schools in the Ponteland Partnership and it will be available for community use after school.
It is expected to take 10 to 12 weeks to build, depending on the weather, and it is hoped that the pitch will be ready for late February or early March.
Ponteland Middle School headteacher Caroline Pryer said: “It’s exciting that work has got under way. The site has been completely cleared of top soil, which has been deposited at the school’s meadow area so a second training ground can be created.
“It took us two years to get to this point, so we’re thrilled that all the hard work paid off. This pitch will provide a lasting legacy for our schools and the local community.
“Alan Shearer heard about the project when he visited in January 2013 and he said to us ‘don’t try; do it!’ It’s great that we can now inform him about achieving our dream.”
The funds for the project came from the Football Foundation, Sport England, Ponteland Town Council, Ponteland United Football Club and the school’s Friends’ Association among other bodies.