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Boro tees up five-star plan

CONTRACTS NORTH-EAST

PREMIERSHIP under-achiever Middlesbrough FC is hoping to build one of the country's biggest golf courses as part of an ambitious plan to upgrade its training facilities.

The club has submitted plans for an 18 hole, 7,785 yard golf course to Darlington Borough Council and expects a decision by October.

The work is the latest part of a £32 million redevelopment at the club's training ground at Hurworth-on-Tees to the south of Darlington.

Laing O'Rourke, Shepherd, Clugston and Gateshead contractor Tolent are all bidding for the deal.

Taylor Woodrow, which built Boro's 35,000-capacity Riverside Stadium as well as its current £7 million training facilities, is not in the running.

A Grade II listed mansion called Rockliffe Hall in the undeveloped part of the Hurworth complex will be turned into a 64-bedroom country house hotel.

New football club manager Gareth Southgate and star players including Aussie Mark Viduka and England new boy Stuart Downing will be able to unwind after a hard morning's training with a round of golf before relaxing in the hotel's luxury spa and Turkish baths.

Three restaurants have been included in the hotel plans which have already been given planning permission.

Tenders go back on August 25 with a winner due to be appointed in October.

Work will tee off early next year and it will be ready to host its first guests in June 2009.

Rockliffe Hall, once known as Pilmore Hall, was built in 1863 and was used as a command headquarters in World War II before being turned into a hospital.

It has been empty for the past few years but Boro chairman Steve Gibson has ambitions plans for it.

A project insider said: 'The hotel will be five-star plus. Steve Gibson's instructions are to make sure that the facilities outdo the competition.'

The club also plans to buy up farmland next to Rockliffe Hall to build the course, with farm buildings on the site being converted into maintenance buildings.

It has teamed up with Darlington housing developer Bussey & Armstrong to build 24 exclusive private cottages on the 147 ha site.