AN initial eight towns across Northumberland are set to benefit from brand new “playzones” funded primarily by the Football Foundation.

Work on the playzones, also known as multi-use games areas or MUGAs, is expected to start this month. It comes after Northumberland County Council’s cabinet approved the final funding plan.

The total cost of the scheme comes to more than £1.86 million. Of this, £1.45 million will be funded externally while £284,000 comes from section 106 contributions from developers and a remaining £131,000 coming from existing budgets in the council’s capital programme.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting (April 9) of the council’s cabinet, Councillor Jeff Watson outlined the benefits the playzones would bring. The portfolio holder for leisure described the new sites as “magnificent”.

He added: “It will be a tremendous boost for the county. The playzones are spread right across Northumberland and I know some councillors have contributed to them.

“It will help with inequalities, it will help our children, and it will help people lead healthy lives. I hope you will all support it.”

Cllr Watson said work on the playzones at Alnwick and Amble is ready to begin, with the other six being built at Ashington Hirst, Newbiggin, West Wylam in Prudhoe and West Lea in Bedlington. Council cash was also approved for sites at Cleasewell Hill in Choppington and in Hexham.

However, work on these sites is not expected to begin until July due to the pending final offer letter for funding from the Football Foundation.

Cllr Gordon Stewart, who represents the Prudhoe South ward that includes West Wylam, welcomed the investment in the town. Last year, a Freedom of Information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service found that Prudhoe had received the lowest capital investment from the council of any of the county’s 10 largest towns since 2017.

Since then, the council has committed to investing in the town’s Waterworld leisure centre, the disused East Centre as well as a £150,000 upgrade to the town’s Eastwood Park’s footpath, where the new MUGA will be constructed.

Cllr Stewart said: “Eastwoods Park is an area that had been abandoned for 20 years by previous administrations. It was crime-ridden.

“I visited it in 2016 before I was elected and promised I would make it a jewel in the crown for the town. This is a very big diamond in that crown.

“Eastwoods Park is in such great demand that people come from miles around to enjoy the facilities there. It could only happen with the outstanding commitment from the local community.”

Cllr Stewart contributed £10,000 from his small members’ schemes to the project.

An additional eight playzones in eight other towns are also expected in the future. However, the costs for these sites in Berwick, Cramlington, Blyth, Haltwhistle, Lynemouth, Wooler, Seaton Valley and East Bedlington are yet to be confirmed.