A COUNCIL leader has spoken of his confidence that a crucial phase of a multi-million pound sports development will get completed after caution was raised over the scheme’s funding.

Ahead of Hambleton District Council’s chief executive approving measures to progress the third phase of creating Sowerby Sports Village next week, the authority’s leader, Councillor Mark Robson, issued the assurances, but said the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to the nine-acre sports development being delayed.

It is a decade since plans to create sports facilities were unveiled as residents battled proposals to build the 925-home Sowerby Gateway estate. Since the 72-hectare estate was granted planning permission in 2012 the sports village has been viewed as a key for the community.

In 2013 a blueprint for the scheme, featuring a pavilion, four car parks with a total of 300 spaces, two full-size rugby pitches, one of which would be floodlit with covered spectator viewing, a floodlit football pitch and several other pitches and a BMX skills track was unveiled and the following year it was hoped the sports village could open by 2017.

Timescales for the sports scheme and for another leading element of the Sowerby Gateway development - changes to the A168 junction - have seen the authority face pressure from residents.

A report to next week’s chief executive meeting states how the Covid-19 pandemic allowed the opportunity to open the site, and in particular a fitness trail, earlier than scheduled for informal physical exercise, a move it said had “been positively received by the community”.

The officers’ report has recommended approval of £61,000 from the council to complete £416,074 of work needed to create a road, build a car park and paths at the site. It is hoped this work will enable local sports clubs, including Thirsk Falcons football club and Thirsk Rugby Union Football Club, to enable pitches that have been laid from this summer.

However, the report states uncertainty remains around ‘phase four’ funding - to turn the site from informal open space into formal leisure provision, including a stage four 3G artificial pitch, changing provision, permanent car parking, pathways, utilities, and potential social facilities.

The report states the provision of a floodlit 3G pitch is “the keystone of the sports village”. It adds: “This is an expensive phase with external funders only providing grants if the pitches are serviced by suitable infrastructure such as changing rooms and car parking.

“The provision of potential external grants for this phase is most likely to come from the key sport’s national governing bodies, however the commitment and scale of their contribution is by no means certain.”

Cllr Robson said: “I am very confident phase four of Sowerby Sports Village will be delivered although the timescale may slip as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We are currently exploring various funding options for this phase of the scheme.”