WORK on a £2 million state-of-the-art badminton centre of excellence is set to start at a Winchester school in the summer.

Building chiefs, who have finalised a design brief for the scheme at Westgate Secondary School, are planning to put the project out to tender in March, with hopes of contractors starting work on the site by July.

The centre, which is being provided with the backing of a £1.5 million National Lottery grant, will be the first of its kind in the region.

It will include a large sports hall marked out with five full-size badminton courts, cut into a raised area of land currently occupied by a tennis court.

The new complex will also include a physiotherapy room, changing facilities, a social area with a bar, a shop, lockers and community stores.

A viewing gallery and balcony for visitors is to be constructed along the eastern side of the sports hall .

Hampshire County Council has also given high priority to the needs of the disabled, by making provision for an eight-person lift, suitable for wheelchair use, and the installation of ramps at all entrance and exit points.

The council's director of property, business and regulatory services, Andrew Smith, said the badminton centre, which is also to be made available for people in the local community, should be ready for use by August 2002.

"This is a major initiative and a very exciting project," he told members of the buildings, grounds and contracts panel.

"We look forward to seeing it coming to fruition."