A DERELICT former health club has been demolished at Teesside Retail Park to make way for a £4.5m furniture store.

Springs Health Club, which has stood empty and decaying at the entrance to the Stockton shopping park since 2007, has been flattened to make way for a new Barker and Stonehouse store which will also house its head office.

The huge store, the size of a football pitch, will include an in-store cafe, two floors of retail space and a car park for almost 100 cars.

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Site manager Dennis McLuckie, of contractors McLuckie Projects, said: "It’s great to be on-site and able to get started with the project. We’re hoping to begin the construction phase in early July and to be weather-tight by Christmas.”

The store is planned to open for early 2015. Barker and Stonehouse was founded in Stockton in 1946 and following expansion it is now a national retailer, with showcase stores in London and across the country.

James Barker, managing director of Barker and Stonehouse, said: “This is going to be a spectacular store and will be a great asset to the Teesside Retail Park and wider Teesside area.”

"Building work is expected to create work for about 60 to 70 local tradesmen and the shop is expected to employ around 40 full-time staff.

"News that the Springs site will finally be regenerated and replaced with a new Barker and Stonehouse store is really welcome."

Stockton Borough Council's planning committee had refused two previous applications to develop the prime site at the former leisure centre, which is close to the entrance to Teesside Park. However, the Barker and Stonehouse application was unanimously approved.