LITTLE Lyra Prior is one of many children across the North-East set to benefit from a new facility for young people with cerebral palsy.

The new Heel and Toe Hydro Centre, at Perkinsville, near Chester-le-Street, is the first in the region to offer access to a hydro-pool with a therapist.

The centre, which opened yesterday, also houses physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, free conductive education sessions and, in the future, rebound therapy and extended therapy rooms.

Lyra, who is four, and from Stanley Crook, near Crook, was not diagnosed with cerebral palsy until she was two.

Her mum Barbara said: “The new hydro centre is going to be a huge benefit for families and will be able to increase the therapy they provide including rebound and hydrotherapy.

“Everyone wants to do hydro. There is a massive ageing population and lots of people need hydro for things like chronic back pain.

“Having this hydro for children and young people with cerebral palsy and physical disabilities who really need it is brilliant.”

Mrs Prior first contacted Heel and Toe when Lyra was one after she heard from a friend in London how much conductive education was used in the capital to “treat the child rather than the condition”.

Lyra, a pupil at Evergreen Primary School in Bishop Auckland, began having weekly sessions with the charity as well as regular physiotherapy, plus hydrotherapy which her family has tried through various routes including the NHS.

She has now defied her prognosis and learned to walk with supportive equipment.

Mrs Prior, 37, who is also mum to Max, six, Maisie, two, and Arran, seven months with husband Chris, said: “It will be a massive addition for families to use the hydrotherapy centre at Heel and Toe to have a session with a therapist in the pool which is unique.

“There are not many hydrotherapy pools in the region, the NHS provision is severely lacking, and not all of the children go to special school where they might be able to access hydro, so it is really important.”

The charity, now is in its tenth year, which is based in nearby Pelton, opened the centre two years after launching the Footprints Appeal which has raised £600,000.

Great Britain Paralympic swimming gold medallist Matt Wylie MBE carried out the official opening of the centre on Thursday morning.

Double gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games Chris Cooke, who has competed in the Olympics, European and World championships also attended.

Heel and Toe chairman Paul Gilsenan said: “We are absolutely over the moon to have reached the stage where we are opening our second centre and we really owe this to the hard work of our staff, our fundraisers, our families and the public who have fully supported us.

“Offering these therapies to our families all under one roof makes such a difference to their lives and enables the children to become more independent and reach their life goals.

“Every single person who has generously donated to the Footprints Appeal has made this all possible and we want to thank all those who have worked with us to get his idea off the ground and make it a reality.”