Next steps in £16.8million all-weather football hubs project for Sunderland

Footballers are in line for new 3G pitches at Ford Quarry
Footballers are in line for new 3G pitches at Ford Quarry

Council bosses have backed the latest plans for a  multi-million pound scheme to create a series of all-weather football complexes on Wearside.

Sunderland City Council had previously submitted plans to revamp three locations as part of the Football Association’s ‘Parklife Project’.

Councillor John Kelly

Councillor John Kelly

The plans will bring 10 new 3G pitches to the city - with an aim of improving grass roots access to pitches and programmes and easing financial pressure on council-run facilities.

An earlier report found the number of teams in the area at all levels - including mini soccer, 9v9 and adult sides - amounts to more than 600 squads.

Sport England and the Premier League are also involved in the programme.

Council bosses have now backed plans to award construction contracts and leases for the project - with teams expected to turn out on pitches by next summer.

Cabinet member for communities and culture, John Kelly, said recommendations would ensure construction would start on time.

Current plans will see three new pitches,  improvements to existing grass pitches and a pavilion and gym revamp at Community North Sports Complex in Downhill, Sunderland.

Three pitches are also planned for Ford Quarry, in Keelmans Lane, while the Northern Area Playing Fields in Washington, will get three football pitches and one dual football and rugby pitch.

Council bosses previously approved a contribution of £4.8million to the overall estimated project cost of £12m.

Revised estimates now set the capital cost at £16.8million with £10.08million met by the charity Football Foundation and £6.72m from Sunderland City Council .

A report states the council would need to provide the full £6.72million even if the project was under budget and would be expected to cover any overspend.

Once completed, the hubs will be run by a contractor with affordable prices and a trust to oversee their use.

The trust will include reps from the Football Association, Durham County FA, Sunderland AFC Foundation of Light and independent members.

The transfer of the sites to the hubs and new management is expected to created around £360k for the SCC, a report states.

Currently, the council plan to grant a 25-year lease for the Ford Quarry and Northern Area sites to the Football Trust.

A council report adds that it’s unknown whether the Downhill site will be leased directly to the hub operator on a short-term basis.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service