Olympic hopefuls of the future will be given a greater sporting chance thanks to investment in athletics facilities by Worthing Borough Council.
For many years, the town has had a strong reputation for producing national level competitors with Worthing Harriers one of the most active athletics clubs in the region.
While their home track at Worthing Leisure Centre is well-used by people of all ages, those in field events - notably the hammer - have to train further afield due to the deterioration of the throwing facilities.
After close discussions with the athletics club and operator South Downs Leisure, the Council is allocating funding out of its capital budget towards the purchase and installation of a new hammer cage for Worthing Harriers.
The upgraded facility will also be relocated to the centre of the running track, which will allow the current fenced off space in West Park to be used by dog walkers.
South Downs Leisure Trust, which owns the lease to the land, has given permission for the area to be opened and made available to dog walkers on most days but will still need access to the area when there are events.
Use of the space will be reviewed after one year as part of the Council's commitment to work with South Downs Leisure and other partners on strategic plans to enhance the facilities at Worthing Leisure Centre.
Among those to benefit from the investment will be hammer thrower Ben Hawkes, 21, who recently came fifth at the British Championships and has the Commonwealth Games and Olympics in his sights.
Cllr Edward Crouch, Worthing Borough Council's Executive Member for Digital & Environmental Services, said:
“This is a great example of the Council working with partners and residents to ensure a positive outcome which makes best use of our much-valued sports and recreational space.
“Worthing Harriers are a fantastic advertisement for the town, giving hundreds of people opportunities to train, get fit and try out new activities. The fact that a good percentage go on to compete, some at a national level, is testament to the hard work of the volunteers and coaches, as well as the facilities on offer.
“The investment in a new hammer cage will help the club develop further and may even support the development of some gold medalists in the future.
“It also means we - with the support of South Downs Leisure - can create a new temporary space for dog walkers, which should be well-received by those using West Park. We hope it will ensure there are sufficient facilities to balance the needs of everyone wanting to make use of this well-used community open space.”
Gavin Stephens, Chairman of Worthing Harriers, said: “The investment from Worthing Borough Council towards our new throwing cage is greatly appreciated by our members.
“The club has a strong tradition of producing national level throwers, with some of the best coaching knowledge in the region - the continued facility improvements will secure this tradition.
“Our existing athletes can now train safely at their home track, we can welcome new talent, host competitions, and once again become a throwing hub for future champions.”
The decision was taken after discussion with a range of interested parties, including residents, Worthing Harriers, South Downs Leisure and ward councillors.
The hammer cage, which is currently near the railway line, has been out of action for more than two years after coming to the end of its usable life. It was also regularly vandalised.
By relocating the facility back to the centre of the track, it will be used more widely for training and competitions.
The Council's park rangers will continue to work with local groups to ensure the park meets the needs of all users moving forward.