Planning approval for upgrades to Ashington park

Hirst Park in Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman
Hirst Park in Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman

A number of improvements at Hirst Park in Ashington as part of its £2.7million revival have been given the go-ahead.

A major restoration project is being carried out by Northumberland County Council and partners, supported by a £2.29million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

A range of improvements are planned, but a small number of the changes required planning permission, which they were granted at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Ashington and Blyth Local Area Council.

The elements unanimously approved by councillors included new gates and fencing at the main Fourth Avenue entrance plus the creation of another multi-use games area (MUGA) and the upgrading of the tennis courts at the park’s southern end.

The main development is the remodelling and extension of derelict buildings by the lodge to create a horticultural training facility and community garden, complete with greenhouses and polytunnel, to be operated in partnership with Northumberland College.

Coun Brian Gallacher said: “It’s a fantastic thing to happen for Ashington and it’s been in planning for some time so we have to thank everyone involved.”

The park is famed in the world of football as the place where Sir Bobby and Jack Charlton began their illustrious careers to become World Cup winners.

Built in 1915, the community facility is where the brothers first played and trained as youngsters – as did their cousin, Toon legend Jackie Milburn, before the park fell into decline in the following decades.

But the Hirst Revival project, which also involves Ashington Town Council and the Ashington Leisure Partnership, is seeking to change that.

It will mean that the Flower Park is rejuvenated and landscaped, while the redundant depot buildings will be converted into a multi-purpose education/training room and community garden development, with kitchen, toilets, workshop, office and boot room.

Outside there will be a polytunnel, greenhouses, shade tunnel and raised planters, which will enable horticultural training, including courses to help families grow their own vegetables, to take place.

The HLF funding will also establish an annual Charlton and Milburn Cup tournament so that youngsters can follow in their footsteps, while play facilities will be enhanced with water features reintroduced.

The lost garden of Hirst will be recreated and links between the recreation ground and Flower Park will be opened up, with the colourful floral displays for which it is so fondly remembered to be revived.

The former site of the Woodhorn monument will be developed into a community performance and interpretation space, telling the mining heritage story of the area.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service