Work has officially started on a new multi-million-pound flagship leisure attraction that will bring three swimming pools, a gym and café space to the North East. 

A range of preparatory site works, the appointment of contractors and the discharging of planning conditions have all commenced on Highlight in Hartlepool ahead of the start of groundworks, which will include the construction of the new building’s foundations, in January.

Highlight, which is scheduled to open at The Waterfront towards the end of 2025, will replace the town’s existing Mill House Leisure Centre, which has been in operation since 1972.

The Northern Echo: How the Headlight site will look once built How the Headlight site will look once built (Image: HARTLEPOOL BOROUGH COUNCIL)

The start of work follows the appointment of Wates Construction as the main contractor.

It also comes just weeks after a full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council approved a revised funding strategy for the development to allow the project to commence in combination with significant external funding from the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Sport England.

Councillor Mike Young, leader of the council, said: “It is so exciting to be in the position where we have now started work on Highlight, the biggest single investment to be made in Hartlepool for decades. It further demonstrates how we are delivering on our ambitious regeneration plans for the borough.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Mike Young, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council at the Highlight siteCllr Mike Young, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council at the Highlight site (Image: Hartlepool Borough Council)

“A lot of hard work has been required over a lengthy period of time to reach this point, but the Council has never wavered in its determination to proceed with this scheme and make it happen.

“It is going to be a truly eye-catching building with a range of fantastic facilities. There will be a real focus on enabling families to lead fun, active and healthy lives - providing so many benefits for residents of Hartlepool, whilst also attracting visitors from further afield.”

The active wellbeing hub’s facilities will include three pools; a gym; fitness, dance and activity studios; soft play and children’s party space; dedicated NHS consultation suites and a café. 

Highlight will also include externally accessible changing and storage facilities, alongside a connection to the marina, to support a wide range of outdoor water sports.

The Northern Echo: Councillors, officers and contractors mark the start of preparatory work at the siteCouncillors, officers and contractors mark the start of preparatory work at the site (Image: HARTLEPOOL BOROUGH COUCIL)

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, said: “It’s great to see work starting on this development which will make a real difference to the town’s health and wellbeing.

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“We want to ensure Hartlepool is a fantastic place to live, work and invest and are working hard to support key projects such as Highlight, the transformation of Hartlepool railway station and plans to improve the town centre.”

David Wingfield, regional director for Construction - Yorkshire & North East at Wates, added: “This project will have a huge impact on Hartlepool and we’re honoured to be working on such an ambitious, exciting build.

"We’re committed to ensuring benefits are felt by the wider region beyond the fantastic new facilities that are being created, and we’re working in close partnership with Hartlepool Borough Council and our supply chain to create new jobs and education opportunities, as well as supporting community initiatives throughout construction.”