Work to start soon on £1.7m sports project

The Northern Echo: Dan Lewis in the disused factory Dan Lewis in the disused factory

WORK on a £1.7m project to transform a disused factory into a sport and leisure complex is expected to start within weeks.

The Soccer Factory will create 30 jobs and breathe new life into the former Thrislington Partitions site in Durham Way South, Aycliffe Business Park.

Durham County Council granted permission for the scheme in February when planners argued there was a surplus of empty factory units nearby.

Entrepreneur Dan Lewis said his project will include seven five-a-side pitches, a health and fitness suite, a multi-purpose studio, a cafe, office space and meeting rooms.

Mr Lewis said: "It's a big venture and hopefully something the people of the town and surrounding areas will buy into.

"We're looking at up to 30 jobs across a range of different sectors, from football and fitness, to bar and catering staff, so during such a negative time, hopefully this will bea boost to the local economy.

"We'll hopefully be open for business by the back end of the summer and early autumn."

Mr Lewis, 34, spent seven years as Durham University's deputy director of sport, and said he was hopefully "just a couple of weeks away from knocking the first wall down" on the new project.

He said: "We're just finalising the exact breakdown of the finances and we're ready to go."

The 85,000sq ft unit was closed by Thrislington Partitions in 2008, with the loss of 60 jobs, but the community is due a change of fortunes with several major projects in the pipeline.

Hitatchi is expected to create thousands of jobs when the firm builds the next generation of high-speed trains in Newton Aycliffe and nearby Woodham Golf Course has approval for a £32m hotel and housing redevelopment scheme.

Meanwhile, work on a new Aldi supermarket is expected to start in the next few weeks.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who campaigned for Hitachi, said: "The Soccer Factory is another fantastic venture for Newton Aycliffe and I'm delighted to see work is due to start.

"I've long held the belief that Aycliffe is a town that's going places and this new development is testament to that. I'm sure it will be well received in the town and surrounding areas."

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