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Public will share sports village

A college is at the centre of plans to create a "sports village" in a venture designed to encourage the entire local community to take more exercise.

The pound;17 million development in Newcastle-under-Lyme will create athletic facilities which can be shared between further education students and the general public throughout the week if the scheme is approved by planners.

The project follows years of planning by Newcastle-under-Lyme College, the borough council and Staffordshire County Council.

The facilities will include a 25-metre, eight-lane swimming pool, and a range of indoor areas to include badminton, tennis and squash, as well as a health and fitness suite. The swimming pool will have a viewing area for competitive events. Outside, a selection of pitches for football and other sports is planned. There will also be a classroom dedicated to sports science.

Sports science has been a growing area in FE as colleges seek to encourage youngsters to take an interest in the industry beyond competing.

Mark Barrow, Newcastle Borough Council's chief executive, said: "This could be the biggest single sports development the borough has seen.

"It's a very exciting time which could see us move away from outdated and undersized recreation facilities to state-of-the-art sports and leisure provision for the whole community."

The development would be on land which forms part of the college's pound;52 million new campus - construction on which started this month.

All English colleges are being rebuilt or modernised under a programme of improvements partly subsidised by the Learning and Skills Council.

The new college, to be completed in the spring of 2010, will include a 200-seat lecture theatre, hair and beauty salons, and a suite of conference rooms. The building will be split into "pods" - each specialising in specific subjects.

All the sports facilities will be open to the public seven days a week during the day and in the evenings.

Craig Hodgson, vice-principal of the college, said: "We're very excited at the possibility of combining the new college with a host of extra facilities which would be open to the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

"We are now supporting the borough council to get everything in place in good time to ensure it can proceed as part of our new college development."

All that remains is for the council's planning committee to approve the development on April 15.

Mary Maxfield, a council member with responsibility for social inclusion, said: "This is an enormously exciting project which would provide an affordable and accessible first-class leisure venue for every single resident of our borough."

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