AFTER years of hard work and international media attention over “controversial” plans, the Abbey Stadium will be officially reopened later this month.

The £6.5m refit of the stadium hit the headlines last year after it emerged Redditch Council was planning to heat the new pools using waste energy from the town’s crematorium.

Town hall chiefs wanted to use the heat generated by Redditch Crematorium, which is currently pumped into the atmosphere.

At the time a number of people objected to the plans.

One was Simon Thomas, of Thomas Brothers Funeral Directors, who at first called the plans “strange” and “eerie”

The plans were approved and once work is completed on the cremators, the council will be the first in the country to use a crematorium to heat a leisure centre in this way.

Leader of the council Carole Gandy said: “The cremators are still under construction but will hopefully be in place by May.

“Going back to when we first announced it there was some initial concern but I think that was about people not fully understanding what we wanted to do.

“Once it is up-and-running it will raise the profile of Redditch.”

Construction work began on the re-fit in October 2010 after the council signed a building contract with ISG to deliver a new pool and extension to the existing stadium.

The extension now house a 25m, six lane pool with tiered seating for 300 spectators, as well as a smaller training pool.

The existing sports centre has been modernised with a new entrance and reception area, dry side changing facilities and a state-of-the-art gym and dance studio.

Work has also been undertaken to refurbish the outdoor athletics track and additional car parking has been created.

Coun Gandy said: “I’ve been down there and I was very impressed. The feedback we’ve received from people who are already using the centre as well has been very positive.

“There are bound to be some teething problems, like with any new facility, but so far these have been few and far between.”

She added: ”There has been talk about this development for almost 15 years.

“When our group took control of the council, I said enough is enough and we are going to do something about it – and we have.

“I’m really looking forward to the official reopening, we have an amazing facility that we should all be proud of.”

At the moment the stadium is open but operating on reduced hours.

The formal reopening is set for February 20.