THE decision to hand over Abingdon’s Tilsley Park sports complex to Abingdon School has been welcomed by athletes.

Vale of White Horse District Council took the decision because the park is too expensive to run.

The council currently pays Soll Leisure £250,000 a year to manage the site off Dunmore Road in north-west Abingdon.

Now it has agreed a 125-year lease with Abingdon School to take it over for its own use and develop it for increased public use.

Under the lease, from September next year, the school would take responsibility for managing the site and developing it on the council’s behalf.

The school is already planning to build a new full-size “rubber crumb” artificial turf pitch for football and rugby, new pitches for five-a-side football and better tennis facilites. The school is also planning to extend opening hours to the public.

Abingdon Athletics Club (AAC) uses the running track there three times a week for training and chairman Cliff Penton said the club was “quite positive” about the decision.

Mr Penton, 48, said: “The facilities there could do with some attention and we are optimistic that Abingdon School will improve the facilities we use.”

Vale council leader Matthew Barber said the council was looking to renew all the contracts on its leisure facilities in 2014.

He said: “I think anyone in the town would say Abingdon School are pretty good neighbours. They have got a good track record in their involvement in the community.”

Abingdon School head Felicity Lusk said: “We already work closely with much of the town community who use our existing facilities, so we look forward to furthering our relationships at Tilsley Park.”

Oxfordshire county councillor for Abingdon South Neil Fawcett said he was concerned that the deal had been drawn up without a public consultation.

Earlier this month, the Vale began a £370,000 project resurfacing the Tilsley Park hockey pitches, to which Abingdon School will contribute.