A FAMILY from Little Hulton have spoken of their joy at being the first to welcome their newborn baby at a state-of-the-art birth centre.

Three-day-old Arla Gregory-Allen was the first baby — other than those delivered at home — to be born in Salford in the past seven months.

Arla weighed in at 6.2 lbs when she arrived at 6.36am on Monday, April 16 — three days ahead of schedule.

Her family attended the official launch celebration at Ingleside Birth and Community Centre today.

Mother Sarah Allen, aged 32, said: "It was all very fast. There were only six minutes from the time we parked up to when she arrived, so unfortunately we did not get to enjoy all of the facilities, but it feels totally wonderful that we had her here. It was lovely and quiet and the setting is beautiful.

"It is brilliant that children can be born in Salford again now."

The free-standing midwifery-led unit is the first of its kind in Greater Manchester.

The transformed Victorian mansion is set in woodland grounds at Oakwood Park, off Swinton Park Road.

The centre replaces the maternity unit at Salford Royal Hospital which shut down in September last year.

It offers a home-from-home environment for women who have been identified as having a low-risk pregnancy and are not expected to require support from a doctor.

Father Chris Gregory, aged 40, said: "The centre is wonderful. Arla surprised us by arriving three days early.

"It is a big thing to be first. The facilities here are brilliant.

"We could not ask for anything better.

"We would definitely recommend it to other mothers."

The birth centre is made up of four birthing rooms, each with its own birthing pool. Relaxing colour themes have been chosen for the suites following a public consultation on design.

Project manager Tom Openshaw, from Bolton, said: "Birthing cubes have been used rather than beds to help women remain comfortable, and there are relaxing colours throughout.

"Natural image projectors have also been installed to display audio videos of some 150 scenes, including waterfalls, beaches, forests, lakes and more."

Consultant midwife from Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, Catherine Owens, will lead the new service which will welcome expectant mums from across Bolton, Salford and Wigan.

She said: "We are really proud of the new centre. Our focus and passion has been to adopt a heart and mind approach to ensure women are at the centre of the whole service development."

A new staffing model has been created to enable a team of midwives from Salford and Bolton to rotate through.

Head of midwifery at Bolton, Sue Ainsworth, said: "We have been on quite a journey. The whole place is absolutely fabulous. It offers choice to women."