WORK on a multi-million pound sports park development begins this week.

Durham University is spending £35 million to upgrade its existing sports facilities at Maiden Castle in Durham.

The Graham Centre, which already boats world class rowing and fencing facilities and was used as an Olympic training base ahead of the 2012 London Games, is to undergo two-phases of improvements to create an integrated sports park.

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Work on the first phase starts today, with a new “rubber crumb” sports pitch being created inside the existing athletics track, one hockey pitch upgraded and a second resurfaced.

Car parks and access to the site from the A177 will also be improved with work due to be completed by mid-November.

Public consultation is to take place on the second phase of the proposed development, which would provide an indoor sports hall, cricket facility, indoor tennis and squash courts and a new fitness suite.

Along with students, more than 2,000 residents each week use the sports centre, which is home to 15 community clubs including some of County Durham’s most promising junior athletes.

Quentin Sloper, Director of Experience Durham at Durham University, said: “We are very pleased to be starting work on site to enhance the existing sports facilities at Maiden Castle.

“We know our existing facilities are popular with many local residents but there is a need to expand what we provide and the facility developments will enable us to do more to support recreational, club and grassroots sport.”

Jane Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Durham University, said: “We hope this investment, an important part of our University Strategy 2017-2027, will be of benefit to staff, students and local residents alike.

“We want to be a good neighbour and, as such, this development will be carefully managed.

“We will do everything we can to keep local residents updated on progress and minimise any inconvenience caused during the development phase.”