Residents fear council plans to renovate their local leisure centre have been forgotten after months of delays. 

People in Chester-le-Street have been asked for their feedback on redeveloping the Riverside Leisure Complex to help improve sports facilities and provision in the area. 

The Riverside currently includes a main pavilion, a range of grass football pitches, a single full size artificial pitch, indoor cricket nets and athletics track. It is home to several clubs and sports organisations from across Chester-le-Street and the wider area. 

But years of alleged underinvestment and lack of a plan has seen locals to warn that the facility is hardly being used. 

It is believed the site needs a considerable annual subsidy from the council to operate, and while there has been interest from third parties taking over the site, the option to keep the site managed by the council was preferred.

And now the council has admitted that reaching a deal that is supported by all locals and stakeholders is “not straightforward” and is complicated by other potential developments elsewhere. 

Plans for two new 3G pitches were submitted by the council in March 2022 but have stalled.  

During a consultation in July 2022, residents asked for further scrutiny on Chester-le-Street's two key outdoor facilities; Riverside complex and Roseberry sports facility, Pelton. A second consultation took place between December 2022 and January 2023. 

However, residents say there has been no update from the council since then. 

A bid to install new floodlights at the site was approved in February. 

The Northern Echo: What was proposed for the Riverside Leisure ComplexWhat was proposed for the Riverside Leisure Complex (Image: Durham County Council)

Alan Brown, of the Riverside Residents’ association, which represents people living near the facility, said the current site is a loss-making enterprise. 

He said: “We are all very frustrated because we’ve had this rock hanging over our heads about the potential for losing the area. 

“The state of the leisure complex is an issue because it’s completely dilapidated in some areas. There’s a lack of use by the community, and a lot of people don’t even know it’s there.”

As director of sport at nearby Park View School and chairman of Chester-le-Street United, Lewis Pendleton hopes to grow the area’s sports facilities. But his ideas have proved controversial among neighbours and have led to a fallout with Durham County Council. 

An application to create a new 3G sports pitch at Park View School was recently rejected following residents’ concerns - and now Mr Pendleton has criticised the local authority’s funding. 

He said: “Politicians from all political parties and council officers have failed to deliver any meaningful investment in a community sport asset, despite previously committing millions of investment. 

“Following the council's two ‘consultations’ there has been zero feedback and communication. I have no clue what the future holds on the site. The site is very run down, it's very very sad to see.”

The Northern Echo: Lewis Pendleton hopes a resolution can be found quickly Lewis Pendleton hopes a resolution can be found quickly (Image: Chester-le-Street United FC)

Mr Brown spoke of residents wanting to see a ‘first class facility’ but they oppose plans for a football hub or a complex which would remove vast amounts of green space. 

“We don’t want to live alongside a dilapidated sports complex,” he added. 

“The plan they came with twice for consultation, they were clearly not able to deliver and it was ill conceived and wasn’t sustainable. 

“Unless they come up with a new plan and legitimately consult with us then I can't see any way forward. “

Mr Pendleton added: “The council just needs to communicate meaningfully with stakeholders. They should tell people what the plans are, develop a plan and deliver it. Or tell people there is no development.”

The Northern Echo: Chester-le-Street Labour councillors urge the council to act on its leisure centre promiseChester-le-Street Labour councillors urge the council to act on its leisure centre promise (Image: County Durham Labour)

And opposition Labour councillors have warned that Chester-le-Street could be left behind. 

Cllr Alison Batey said: “The complete lack of progress with the Riverside, Roseberry and the proposed new leisure centre leaves residents without suitable facilities. Why should we be the poor relations of the county when we can see new builds of facilities or refurbishments taking place elsewhere.”

Cllr James Rowlandson, speaking on behalf of the Joint Administration, said: “We have undertaken extensive and very thorough consultation and the feedback from that requires detailed and careful analysis, which inevitably takes time. 

“Our aim is to work with all members and stakeholders to reach an outcome that supports the potential of the site and balances any local impact. That’s not a straightforward objective to meet. 

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Cllr Rowlandson said the recent planning refusal at Park View School has delayed proceedings. 

He added: “Completing this work and agreeing a strategy for the next steps is made more difficult by uncertainty about the intentions of third parties in Chester-le-Street. 

“It’s impossible to provide definitive answers to anyone about the council’s intentions for the Riverside until matters such as this are resolved. Nevertheless, we will continue to work hard to develop proposals following the consultation and of course, we will share those publicly as soon as we are able to do so, with more community engagement to follow.”