Morpeth Leisure Centre


Client: Advance Northumberland

Location: Morpeth, Northumberland

Construction Value: £21m

OOBE was appointed by Henry Riley LLP to produce landscape plans as part of a new destination hub for Morpeth and a high-quality leisure facility for the town.

Key to the project was the creation of an exciting set of flexible spaces that address the flooding issues faced in 2008. The restrictive nature of the site, in terms of its proximity to the River Wansbeck, provided challenges for the entire team. These were taken as an opportunity to deliver a stunning design.

Building on a functional floodplain, it was vital to futureproof the building and mitigate against further flooding. GT3 Architects raised the building 1.2m above ground level. This allowed for a boulevard to sweep along the riverfront before rising up to the entrance plaza, providing fantastic views. This generous plaza has ample space for alfresco dining by its cafe customers.

The ground-level space, provided by the elevated building, was an opportunity to incorporate a sunken library garden. Accessed by steps from the plaza, library users can enjoy a quiet and relaxing space to read a book.  A backdrop of planted areas, featuring new trees and ornamental species, bring visitors closer to nature. The garden’s seating will be repurposed bricks from former site buildings in the form of raised walls.


A solutions-orientated approach leads to a stunning design on a challenging riverside site

Further constraints included a row of houses bordered the northern elevation and mature trees, including some with tree preservation orders. The mature trees form an important part of the site’s character and needed to be retained. They became a key design feature and have been incorporated to provide shelter and shade for the proposed sunken library garden. Cradled in the design is a unique red beech tree. At over 100yrs old, it takes pride of place in the scheme and will continue to bring enjoyment for many years to come.

A proposed rain garden, along the southern elevation, will provide a soft buffer to the buildings edge. To the east, the library opens out into a terrace with an accessible ramp and steps down to an art garden space and small amphitheatre. This can be used for readings and poetry classes.

Throughout the project, OOBE has adopted blue-green infrastructure principles to create a design that works with the environment.  This approach includes softer treatments and addresses climate challenges.

Iain Wakefield, OOBE Ltd Senior Landscape Architect explained: ‘Some people may have looked at this site and simply seen a series of negatives – a functional floodplain, mature trees with TPOs, and homes bordering the northern elevation. Where others see constraints and problems, OOBE sees an opportunity to push what is possible. Constraints inform your design. Constraints inspire you to produce something unique, something with impact that will be enjoyed for the long-term. I certainly believe this is what has been delivered for the community of Morpeth.”

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