Under starter’s orders

PLANS for a new running track in Morpeth have finally reached the finish line.

Confirmation of a £443,000 National Lottery grant from Sport England will mean that a state-of-the-art six lane synthetic running track and associated athletics facilities will be constructed at King Edward VI School.

The £1million Morpeth Multi-Sport Project will be used by Morpeth Harriers, KEVI students and the wider community and there will be improvements to existing changing rooms and paths and an access ramp to ensure that they are fully accessible for disabled people.

After many years of having to host home league matches at Jarrow, the Harriers will be able to stage them in the town and will no longer have to go elsewhere to train.

Secretary Mike Bateman said: “This is the great news that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

“It gives ourselves and the other athletics clubs in the area the facilities to be able to develop athletes across the full range of athletic events.”

The project includes a new synthetic surface for the school’s existing shale all-weather sports area. It is coming from Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre in Buckinghamshire and will be used for PE lessons, as well as competitive hockey.

Improvements have also been carried out by KEVI to four football pitches and drainage.

Headteacher Simon Taylor said: “We are delighted with the successful outcome of this project.

“Working in partnership with Morpeth Harriers will benefit both the school and members of the community. Many of our students are already members of the Harriers and I am sure these numbers will grow in future.

“Improvements to our sports facilities have been a high priority for governors for a number of years, and the arrival of the athletics track and the synthetic pitch, along with the improvements to our football pitches are a significant step forward.”

Other funding for the scheme has come from Northumberland County Council (£375,000), with £300,000 pledged by the former Castle Morpeth Council before it was wound up in 2009, the county council’s Aiming High Fund (£40,000), Morpeth Harriers (£11,000) and KEVI (£175,000).

Work on developing the project started in 2007 and after plans for new facilities at Craik Park fell through, an application was put in for land at KEVI last year.

Despite concerns from some neighbouring residents that the site was unsuitable, the unitary authority granted planning permission.

Executive Member for Leisure Jim Smith said: “This is fantastic news for this very worthwhile project, which will benefit Morpeth and surrounding communities.

“There has been a lot of detailed work to get to this stage, but this is a great result and we look forward to working with the school, Morpeth Harriers and other user groups towards successful completion of the work.”