WORK on an £18m state-of-the-art sports development in Middlesbrough began this week.

The first phase of the Middlesbrough Sports Village at Prissick is underway, with a new athletics track, fitness gym, sport and performance spaces and external, flood-lit pitches planned.

A new access road feeding the site from Ladgate Lane and the car park for the James Cook University Hospital is also part of the works.

Former Middlesbrough and England footballer Alan Peacock and the town's mayor Ray Mallon officially started work on the development on Friday with a turf-cutting ceremony, joined by local schoolchildren who were taking part in a summer football coaching course.

The existing cycling circuit, clubhouse cabins and skate plaza facilities will be maintained throughout the construction process, as well as access to Tennis World, which will remain separate on its own site.

The contractor who will be carrying out the construction on behalf of Middlesbrough Council is Willmott Dixon.

The new athletics track and temporary changing will complete in October 2014, with the new Sports Hub building, associated external sports facilities and sports car parking opening in April, 2015.

Mr Mallon said: “By creating a 21st Century centre of excellence, we will have a major asset which will stand the town and the region as a whole in good stead for many years to come.”

Phase two of the Sports Village will include an Olympic-size 250m outdoor velodrome developed in partnership with British Cycling, along with associated car parking and landscaping.

The plans also incorporate facilities which could be developed as part of phase three, these being a BMX track and sports pitch, along with associated grandstand facilities.