Plans for a judo centre of excellence in the Waterside area of Londonderry have won approval six years after they were proposed.
A multi-million pound project to redevelop a leisure centre in St Columb's Park as a centre of sporting excellence was rubber-stamped at Derry City Council.
Along with the judo centre, the facility will contain a new swimming pool, a fitness centre and a multi-sports hall, which could be available as a possible venue for City of Culture and the World Fire and Police Games in August 2013.
The sports campus will include the judo, wrestling and indoor climbing hall, multi-purpose hall, gym, performance development centre and 3G pitch and will form phase one of the development plan, while a new pool, squash courts and changing facilities will form phase two of the project.
The nearby Lisnagelvin Leisure Centre will remain open during the construction of the new facility but will then be closed down and the land sold to raise funds for the new centre.
The existing leisure centre at St Columb's Park will also be closed down.
Foyle MLA and Speaker of the Assembly William Hay, who first lobbied for the new facility in 2005 when he was a councillor, said it was a good news story for the Waterside and for all of the north west.
He added: “When I first brought this to council I didn't always get the backing of everyone but I am delighted to see that it has finally been given the support it warrants.”
The approval for the new project was agreed at a meeting of the development committee.
Chairman, SDLP councillor Martin Reilly, said: “This represents a significant investment in the leisure infrastructure in the Waterside, which will benefit not just those in the immediate area but the wider north west.
“Council officers now have a clear mandate from all parties to invite tenders for the construction of a new North West Regional Sports Campus at St Columb’s Park.”
Explaining the funding for the new campus, Mr Reilly added: “The total cost is expected to be in the region of £9.6m with £5.6m of that covered through the potential savings from closing the two existing facilities in Lisnagelvin and St Columb’s.
“This revenue will come in the interim through a loan which has already been costed and provided for so there will be no increase in the rates for this.”