Work on the £21 million Morpeth leisure centre, designed by GT3 Architects, moves to the next stage with the appointment of Willmott Dixon as building contractor.

Advance Northumberland, a new regeneration company established by Northumberland County Council, is responsible for delivering the project.

The complex will be operated by Active Northumberland, the charitable trust that manages leisure services across the county.

The mixed-use leisure scheme, funded by Northumberland County Council, will deliver a first-class leisure centre, library and community hub for the historic market town. The site is located on the edge of the town centre conservation area beside the River Wansbeck.

This is a sister project in the county for GT3 Architects, who designed the £20 million Berwick leisure complex, which has already hit the next level with steelwork in place.

Paul Reed, associate director at GT3 Architects, said: “We send our warmest congratulations to Willmott Dixon and we look forward to working alongside an experienced team as Morpeth Leisure Centre progresses to this next, exciting phase.

“We worked very closely with Advance Northumberland, Northumberland County Council, at both a client and planning level, and Active Northumberland to ensure the centre is in keeping with its surroundings and has the community at its heart. Despite restrictions with COVID-19 and the ever-changing working landscape, this is a huge investment for the town. We are particularly pleased that we have incorporated an adult learning centre within the design which will house STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and catering, as well as a library.

“Providing a new base for the local library provision in the centre of town is an important development. It will enable everyone in the community to access learning in a modern setting.”

The centre will also include a six-lane swimming pool with a gallery for spectators, spa facilities, a four-court sports hall, a 100-station fitness suite, a dedicated cycling studio, a café, large fitness studios and soft play.

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Glen Sanderson, said: “We are one step closer to creating outstanding sports, leisure and community facilities for Morpeth and the wider area. The new centre will be a real asset for the town and a wonderful place for residents and visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

“When work does commence, Willmott Dixon will be implementing strict social distancing to ensure the health and safety of its staff and the wider community is not compromised in any way and that all measures on site are compliant with Government guidelines and Public Health England guidance.”

Liam Hudspith, project manager at Advance Northumberland, said: “We are delighted to have reached this critical milestone and to have Willmott Dixon on board to deliver this landmark facility for Morpeth town centre. The design team has worked extremely hard to get to this point and it will be great to see the efforts of all involved come to fruition.”

With studios in Newcastle and Nottingham, GT3 Architects is an award-winning practice specialising in sports and leisure. The team is resolutely people focused, positioning individuals rather than buildings at the core of its projects, in what it refers to as ‘People Architecture.’