THE first stage of the Ryedale Community and Leisure Centre is racing ahead this week with the opening of The Furlongs - it's new function suite.

Director John Milburn and his manager Janet Ledger are throwing open the doors with a free launch night on Friday featuring music and a buffet so that local residents can visit and find out more about a range of forthcoming events that are planned.

Mr. Milburn said: "We are keen to get The Furlongs up and running as soon as we can as the catering suite has been much missed by the local community.

"We would like to welcome new visitors as well as those people who used to use the bar and other facilities in the past.

He added: "We are planning a range of events during the autumn including disco's and live music and we will be open for bar meals and bookings for anything from weddings to christening a and family parties.

"We aim to have the place absolutely buzzing with activity and will also be planning special Christmas and New Year party nights."

Mr Milburn, who is a keen supporter of the racing industry, will be donating half the admission fee for his disco nights on Thursday evenings to the Injured Jockey Fund.

He said:" Malton and Norton are well known for their racing heritage and if you run a business in a community I believe that you should give something back to support that place."

The bowling season will also be underway next month and the other organisations that will be using the new Ryedale Community and Leisure Centre - Norton based dance school, Dance Expression, and Brooklyn Pre-school Playgroup - hope to move into the building once the alterations are complete during the autumn.

Ryedale District councillors supported the sale of the Norton facility to Ryedale Community and Leisure Centre, for £350,000, at a meeting in May.

Members had voted to sell the site in 2012 after a report stated the club’s survival had only been secured by the council halving the annual rent to £10,000.

Councillor Di Keal, who campaigned to save the club, said: "I am delighted to see The Furlongs open at Ryedale Community and Leisure Club. This is the first step in getting the whole building open and it is brilliant to see it coming alive again.

"It is testament to all the hard work of the people who have been involved in the project which has led to us being able to save a building which many thought was lost to Norton.

She added: "Once the refurbishment works are complete I look forward to our other tenants moving in and the bowlers returning hopefully for their new season. Having saved the building from complete closure we now believe that it has an exciting future as a community hub for Norton."

For more information and tickets for the opening night, which starts at 7pm, call Janet at The Furlongs on 07871 650992.