A FIERCE debate broke out among councillors over proposals to build an exercise trail in Ponteland.

A recommendation from Ponteland Town Council’s environment working party said the council should approve £1,900 to pay for a planning consultant to draw up an application for exercise benches at five sites in Ponteland.

But the recommendation was defeated by five votes to three after it as brought before the October meeting.

Coun. Sue Johnson spoke in favour of the proposal.

She said: “This was going to be for people who just can’t keep fit themselves, or find it difficult. It was designed to enhance the experience of walking round the town, a little circuit where you could stop and do some pedalling.

“It was adding a bit of interest with different viewpoints where they can stop and enjoy the scenery.

“It’s meant for people who have no other form of keeping fit.”

But Coun. Christine Greenwell questioned whether the people of Ponteland would use the equipment.

She said: “I find it a little bit odd you’re looking for £1,900 before you’ve got any funding for this project. The funding might not come through.

“This council has always done a public consultation before spending this much money. That says to me that the reason you won’t is because you’re frightened it will go against it.”

And councillor Thomas Edwards-Clay was concerned about older people using the equipment in remote areas.

Coun. Edwards-Clay said: “I’m one hundred per cent behind getting the equipment. I like the idea but I have concerns. I would have tried to keep it close together, we’re increasing the risk to the aged population.”

The town’s mayor, Coun. Alan Varney, suggested the council could look at putting the equipment at the new schools and leisure centre complex once it is completed.