GREAT AYTON could have a new multi-purpose community centre, if there is enough public support.

Such a scheme could answer long-running calls for improved leisure provision in the village, where there has been a long-running debate about recreational facilities.

A specially designed and sound-proofed centre could house a large, flexible activity hall, equipped and partitioned for different uses. It could also have meeting rooms, a kitchen and ample storage space.

Grants and help are available through Hambleton council, which has two outline plans for £270,000 or £580,000 centres.

Users of existing public halls in Great Ayton held exploratory talks with the parish council at the village hall on Tuesday.

Chairman Coun John Fletcher stressed: "Nothing is firm at the moment. This is just a discussion between ourselves and the community."

While some halls might be refurbished, the village hall was in poor condition and would last only three or four years, he said.

Mr David Goodwin, head of leisure with Hambleton, urged people to think about the village's immediate and future needs, rather than specific locations or technical specifications.

"Three or four Great Ayton organisations have been asking for similar halls. We have assisted one or two projects, but we want to know if some groups are interested in a new shared centre. Some may want to stay exactly where they are."

He distributed questionnaires and asked representatives to write their needs and wishes, stressing: "You will never find a location which is absolutely ideal."

Coun Fletcher said: "There are a number of possible locations and one is at Roseberry school. The scouts have also considered it and there is some car parking space there."

Scout leader Mr Ken Nicholls asked about access to a new centre during school hours and its size, adding: "We operate with minimum space. If we move, we need bigger and better facilities."

Some people felt Roseberry Crescent was too narrow and feared possible accidents.

Mr Dick Stainsby struck a chord when he said: "I'm in favour of a new community centre. It should be large and should replace facilities we have lost, such as Rosehill theatre, and the Friends' school sports hall and courts."

Mrs Sue Patterson and Mrs Jean Duffey said the WI wished to stay at its hall. They were concerned that WI income would suffer if users relocated to a new centre. However, Mr David Burke said the freemasons would continue to meet there.

Coun June Imeson said land was at a premium but felt a solution must be found. "My parents danced at the WI hall and it isn't going to last forever. What will we do when it is not there and nothing else has come along? We have a number of small halls but, unfortunately, this £270,000 cannot be spread around them."

Mr Steve Kayley said: "What we really need is facilities for sport and young people. Large centres in Stokesley, Guisborough and Coulby Newham are used for drama, dance, karate and other things. Even the Royal Shakespeare Company performs at Coulby Newham!"

Although many speakers stressed youth and indoor games facilities were a priority, Dr Stanley Bass questioned this, saying: "Do we want a village hall or a sports hall? I don't think we need a large hall."

Mr Bob Lappin said the parochial hall had been expensively refurbished. It and other church halls served congregations and the wider community.

Mr Goodwin stressed the general public must also be consulted - not just groups with halls