A COUNCIL has signed up as the guarantor for a rugby club’s £2.1m loan as it looks to plans for a new sports village.

Darlington Arena Limited, owned by Mowden Rugby Club, has secured the backing of Darlington Borough Council so it can ensure they can retain access to the site as the sports village plan develops.

The rugby club and the council have been working alongside the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) on the ambitious project which they hope could see the sporting arena have a “long term sustainable future” and attract additional facilities to the town.

The development would be built on the 23 acres of land belonging to the club and up to 42 acres of council-owned land on Neasham Road, with work anticipated to begin later this year and end by 2020.

If approved, it could feature a leisure complex, sporting centre of excellence, retail area and village green with some businesses already showing an interest in the site.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said: “The Council has been working with Tees Valley Combined Authority and Darlington Arena Limited, owners of the arena, on proposals for a Darlington Sports Village.

“This would be an ambitious project to improve sports facilities in Darlington. We expect a business plan, outlining the detailed feasibility of the sports village proposal, to be put forward by the rugby club in the coming months. This work has been funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

“The Sports Village would be built on 23 acres of rugby club land and up to 42 acres owned by the Council.

“The Council previously negotiated a guarantee which it has extended to support the conclusion of the detailed feasibility work, which also provides formal land security to protect the Council’s position.”

In June last year it was announced that the scheme received £450,000 in funding from the TVCA will be added to £50,000 pledged by the council and is earmarked for detailed feasibility plans.

The proposals resemble those put forward in 2015 by RU Active Sports, a company headed by Dubai-based entrepreneur Richard Upshall.

Mr Upshall was working with a team including the current Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, on plans which were ultimately rejected by Darlington’s council.

A hotel operator, garage and several sports clubs have already expressed an interest in occupying a part of the site, and business planning and technical assessments are underway.

It is expected that a planning application for the site, on the outskirts of the town, will be submitted to the borough council later this year.