PLANS to create a community hub to replace a demolished venue are gaining momentum.

The facility will replace the former Southlands Centre in east Middlesbrough, which was demolished to make way for development.

Residents have campaigned for a replacement on the same site to give the community access to much-needed leisure and other activities.

Working with residents, Middlesbrough Council has drawn up plans for the ‘new Southlands', with £1.2m allocated to the project from the council's capital programme, and a £500,000 bid to the towns fund.

An announcement on the final tranche of funding is expected from the Government this autumn.

An operator has been selected to run the facility, with a sports hall set to be part of a future phase of development.

This week Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and councillor Mieka Smiles, the council's executive member for communities and education, visited the site.

Sharon Lawrence, chair of the Park End and Beckfields Community Forum, was one of many residents who opposed the original demolition. She said: "These are some of the most deprived areas in the UK, and the Southlands Centre was the absolute epicentre of eight surrounding estates.

"It was a focal point for the whole community, and that's why we've been campaigning for a replacement.

"I'm absolutely over the moon at what's been achieved so far, and I just hope the remaining funding can be released as soon as possible so we can get the new centre up and running, and serving the local community once again."

Councillor Smiles said: "The local community was never in favour of demolition, and they've pushed us hard to build a replacement.

"It's clear just how important the Southlands Centre was to local residents, and I hope the new hub will be a fitting replacement that stands the local area in good stead for many years to come."

Mr Preston added: "This is a great example of the local community playing a key role in shaping the services and facilities they need and deserve.

"Sharon and Jim Martin from the Community Forum can be proud of the role they've played in moving this project along, and helping to make the new centre a reality."