The prospects of a new athletics facility being built in County Durham have moved a step closer. Ahead of the submission of a planning application early next year, details of proposals for the East Durham Community Athletics Track (EDCAT) have been published on a new website and members of the public are being given the opportunity to comment and get involved. The track will be located on a site at NETPark, on the north edge of Sedgefield, and will serve communities throughout East Durham.
The EDCAT project is being led by athletics club Sedgefield Harriers, working closely with a range of partners, including the local authority, Durham County Council, which owns the site on which the facility will be built. Founded in 2005, Sedgefield Harriers has grown into one of the county’s most successful clubs, with a large senior membership and an even bigger junior section. The club currently has no home and has had aspirations to build a track for a decade, launching its ‘Back the Track’ campaign in 2013, with the aim of delivering a facility that can be used by individuals and groups throughout East Durham. There is currently no proper track in the area and the growing number of clubs and formal and informal running groups have to travel elsewhere to access suitable training facilities.
EDCAT will be located adjacent to the main road between Sedgefield and Fishburn, on the north east edge of NETPark, on a site that is already earmarked for development. The facility itself, along with the infrastructure around it, will support runners, and aspiring runners, of all ages and abilities in East Durham, and will be managed by a not-for-profit organisation. The EDCAT steering group intends to submit a planning application to Durham County Council early next year and is preparing a business plan to demonstrate the long-term viability of the facility. The project currently has provisional access to around £500,000, thanks to fundraising that has already been undertaken. Subject to securing planning permission, this will allow work to begin on building EDCAT.
Ean Parsons is chair of the EDCAT steering group and comments: “Never has the phrase ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’ felt so appropriate, but there are really good reasons why this project has taken some time. It was important to find a site that was not only suitable for this type of development, but also easy to access for people across East Durham, particularly from Sedgefield northwards. Of course, Sedgefield Harriers has been driving this initiative all along, but the club has always made it clear that the track will be a facility for everyone in the area, and the EDCAT steering group is really keen to hear from other individuals and groups who want to get involved.
“We’re really grateful for all of the support that we have received so far from Durham County Council, Business Durham and others. The local community and town council in Sedgefield has also backed the project, contributing to the essential funds that will enable us to start building the track when we have planning permission. This moment is a very important milestone and a successful planning application will kick start another phase of fundraising that will get this fantastic community project across the finishing line.”
Since the launch of ‘Back the Track’ in 2013, the project has attracted support from high profile local, national and international sports stars, including Steve Cram, Paula Radcliffe, Daley Thompson, Haile Gebrselassie, Sir Mo Farah, Sir Steve Redgrave, Roger Black, Jonathan Edwards, Allison Curbishley, Chris Tomlinson and current Team GB middle distance star Laura Weightman.