HEAVY duty machinery moved in to begin construction on the long-heralded multi-million pound new Wycombe Sports Centre this week.

Wycombe District Council chiefs joined representatives of contractor Willmott Dixon at the Handy Cross site yesterday to watch the breaking of the ground.

Contractors began to dig the new 50m swimming pool and create an access road to the Handy Cross Hub – which will also include a coachway park-and-ride and a food store, believed to be Waitrose.

A hotel and office blocks are also proposed for the site off Marlow Hill.

WDC Leader Cllr Richard Scott said: “It’s been a long time in the planning and preparation stages, so this is a major milestone in the redevelopment of the Handy Cross Hub site.

“While it may be a case of ‘no pain, no gain’, we’ll be working with construction company Willmott Dixon to keep disruption and inconvenience to local residents and sports centre users to the absolute minimum.

“I cannot wait for the day that we open the doors to what will be a stunning new sports and leisure facility, a convenient new coachway park and ride and a stylish new food store for Wycombe district residents.”

Before the old athletics track is demolished, the council leaders took on the contractors in one final race – won by Cllr John Gibbs ‘by a whisker’.

A new athletics centre in Little Marlow is close to completion, while the astro-turf pitches have already been relocated to John Hampden Grammar School.

The existing antiquated Wycombe Sports Centre will be torn down once the new sports complex is up and running.

It will include 12 courts, a sub aqua dive pit in the eight-lane swimming pool, a 150 station gym, a bowls hall, two squash courts, a climbing wall and a cafe.