A new £21m leisure centre has been shortlisted for two construction industry awards.

Morpeth Sport and Leisure Centre has been shortlisted in the Public Sector Project and Community Benefit Project categories of this year’s RICS North East Awards.

Commissioned and funded by Northumberland County Council and Advance Northumberland, this project was designed by GT3 Architects and constructed by Willmott Dixon beside the River Wansbeck in Gas House Lane.

Along with the sporting facilities – including a six-lane swimming pool and spectator gallery, learner pool, spa and fitness suites, studio and multi-use sports hall - the centre incorporates a new community services hub. This includes a double-height community library, a customer service centre, a café and soft play with connections to a poetry garden and outdoor terraces, plus an adult learning facility.

Since opening, the new centre has enjoyed a 200 to 260 per cent increase in swim, gym and class visits and a 165 per cent increase in community members.

The Northern Echo: Inside Morpeth Sports & Leisure Centre Inside Morpeth Sports & Leisure Centre (Image: Morpeth Sports & Leisure Centre)

Paul Reed, director and sport and leisure lead at GT3 Architects, said: “We knew from the very first discussions about revitalising Morpeth’s leisure centre that there was a huge opportunity to design a new typology of public building – one which embraced social cohesion, community, and wellbeing, just as much as sporting excellence.

“We’re incredibly proud of the story the numbers tell about the resulting impact on the local community and delighted that the centre has been recognised by RICS. We hope Morpeth Leisure Centre will continue to deliver tangible and enduring social value for the region."

The GT3 Architects design team also focused on carbon reduction and sustainability by introducing a large photovoltaic roof array to provide reliable energy source and CO2 savings. They also included a series of building-wide heating and cooling solutions to minimise waste energy.

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Paul said: “Our sustainability strategy for Morpeth was built on three core pillars - social, environmental, and economic. There’s little point in designing the most environmentally sustainable facility if no one wants to be there. As well as more than doubling the use of the sport facilities, the council has been able to generate additional income while consolidating its overheads and feeding into social fabric of the town.”

Northumberland County Councillor Jeff Watson, Cabinet Member for Promoting Health Lives, said: “The design of the centre is truly spectacular. It is bright, spacious and takes advantage of the beautiful views of the River Wansbeck. It is an incredible building, and a vibrant community space offering the facilities and activities that the local community want. This has been backed up by the record attendance figures since it opened a year ago.”

Jo Robison, director at DPP planning, said: “The site was a complex one in planning, heritage and flood risk terms but through careful engagement and clever design responses, the team has created a public building that brings people together for good and we are incredibly proud to have played a part in that.”