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Newmarket in line to get £4 million investment for sports facilities

Newmarket looks set to benefit from a £4 million investment in much-needed new sports facilities.

The money has been pledged by Suffolk county and West Suffolk district councils – £2 million from each – and could see the new facilities built on land owned by the county authority at the rear of the site once occupied by the town’s St Felix Middle School.

Last month a controversial plan for 50 homes on the other part of the site submitted by the county council was given the green light by district planners despite calls from residents and Sport England that the whole site should be designated for sports use.

The former St Felix School site in Newmarket which could be home to new sports facilities for the town
The former St Felix School site in Newmarket which could be home to new sports facilities for the town

Newmarket councillor Andy Drummond said he and Cllr Rachel Hood had been fighting for the funds for a number of years.

“Going back in time, when the community sports hall at Scaltback Middle School was lost when the county decided to demolish the whole school, it was agreed that as a result the county owed Newmarket £1.2 million,” he said. “We have been fighting for that since then.”

While plans have not been finalised, the investment would make it possible to create facilities such as new badminton and basketball courts, space for gymnastics and other sports as well as community facilities.

This would be in addition to the creation of two new floodlit tennis courts on the St Felix site which have already been agreed to replace the tennis facilities that were lost when the school site closed in 2012.

“This is an ideal opportunity to invest with Suffolk County Council in new and much- needed leisure improvements in Newmarket,” said Cllr Ian Shipp, cabinet member for leisure at West Suffolk Council.

“We have budgeted £2 million to help bring forward proposals, especially where there are gaps in sports provision.”

This will aim to help improve the health of local communities and access to new and modern sporting facilities.”

“No decisions on details have been made but this gives us the flexibility of engaging and working with local groups and sports organisations, which we are due to begin with a meeting this week, to hear their views and make sure they help shape the provision of any future facilities.”

Cllr Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said it was committed to returning the former St Felix Middle School site to active community and sports use.

“Its proximity to residential homes and other facilities has the potential to create a hub for people to enjoy. This represents a real opportunity to create valuable community and sporting facilities for Newmarket,” he said.

Once finally agreed, the financial commitment will see staff at both councils start working together to develop the project in full. West Suffolk Council began its liaison with local sports groups at a meeting at the town’s memorial hall last night.