Winchester civic chiefs in U-turn over River Park Leisure Centre

Basingstoke Gazette: River Park: under threat from development River Park: under threat from development

COUNCILLORS are preparing a U-turn on plans for a new leisure centre in Hampshire.

A public consultation at the end of last year outlined four alternatives to replace Winchester’s River Park Leisure centre, with the council’s preferred option being an entirely new facility.

That angered many residents because it involved a loss of green space.

Now it is understood city councillors will consider building on the existing footprint – an idea once dismissed as too expensive and not presented for public consultation.

But council leader Keith Wood dismissed suggestions of a U-turn.

He said: “It’s always been an option but we were told that building on the current footprint would mean the place would have to close, and places like the swimming club would lose some of its members and we tried to avoid that. It will be more expensive, too. There is no U-turn.”

A new site at Bar End, on land owned by Tesco, also remains an option.

Cllr Wood said Tesco will sell the land only for housing development. As part of any deal, he said, the council would receive a parcel of land to develop the leisure centre.

“The people of Bar End would not be happy about that loss of green space, just as with the people at River Park,” he said.

News that a newbuild on the current site will be considered was met with surprise by many councillors.

Cllr Brian Collin, a Liberal Democrat, said: “I had heard that the advice Keith Wood had was that building on the current footprint couldn’t be done. I did not think it was possible, but if it is, I would like to see what he is proposing.”

Campaigners cautiously welcomed the news yesterday (Feb 3).

James McConnachie, of Save the Rec, said: “Why the U-turn? The council seems to be lurching from one option to the next based on politics and council agendas – it doesn’t fill us with confidence.”

It has also emerged that the University of Winchester has changed its stance and will now consider contributing funds, meaning the option of a 50m swimming pool is on the table.

Councillors will discuss the options at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, February 12.

Comments (11)

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4:05pm Thu 6 Feb 14

winchesterfit says...

The paper going to Cabinet on 12th February, and the letter from the University of Winchester annexed to it, makes it clear that the University - like so many of us in this city and district - wishes to see a sports park developed at Bar End. This is the project they would like to invest in (not a leisure centre at River Park). See the Cabinet paper (CAB2553) here: http://www.wincheste
r.gov.uk/meetings/de
tails/1191

Winchester Fit for the Future supports the University's proposed partnership approach. In addition, our own work with local architects Studio Four has shown that there are many different ways to develop the land at Bar End for long-term sport and recreational use. We have shown that all the key indoor sports facilities can be accommodated using land owned by the University, Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council. This includes a large (15 court) sportshall, a gymnastics and trampolining facility, a grandstand for the athletics track, and a 50m pool.

We would like the land owned by Tesco, known as the Garrison Ground, to be secured for sport and recreational use long-term as well. It is the home ground for the Winchester and District Girls' Football League and Winchester City Flyers FC. It houses an amateur boxing club in its pavilion and the fields are used by the athletics club and others for grass training. It would be devastating to see this important sport and recreational resource turned into a housing estate. We'd like Tesco to work with the community to ensure this doesn't happen.

Until Tesco works with the community, its sports clubs, and institutions such as the University, to explore how the land can be protected and enhanced as a recreational area, it will remain under threat of housebuilding. Miller Homes have had their eye on it for some time. Winchester City Council has met with them three times to discuss their plans.

I assume this is what Cllr Wood is referring to – but there is no need for him to frighten local residents in this way. The sports and leisure facilities we need can be developed at Bar End without any houses being built there, and if necessary without using Tesco's land at all. The University has offered to help. So will local sports clubs and community groups, I am sure. It can all be done affordably and sustainably, if everyone works together.
The paper going to Cabinet on 12th February, and the letter from the University of Winchester annexed to it, makes it clear that the University - like so many of us in this city and district - wishes to see a sports park developed at Bar End. This is the project they would like to invest in (not a leisure centre at River Park). See the Cabinet paper (CAB2553) here: http://www.wincheste r.gov.uk/meetings/de tails/1191 Winchester Fit for the Future supports the University's proposed partnership approach. In addition, our own work with local architects Studio Four has shown that there are many different ways to develop the land at Bar End for long-term sport and recreational use. We have shown that all the key indoor sports facilities can be accommodated using land owned by the University, Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council. This includes a large (15 court) sportshall, a gymnastics and trampolining facility, a grandstand for the athletics track, and a 50m pool. We would like the land owned by Tesco, known as the Garrison Ground, to be secured for sport and recreational use long-term as well. It is the home ground for the Winchester and District Girls' Football League and Winchester City Flyers FC. It houses an amateur boxing club in its pavilion and the fields are used by the athletics club and others for grass training. It would be devastating to see this important sport and recreational resource turned into a housing estate. We'd like Tesco to work with the community to ensure this doesn't happen. Until Tesco works with the community, its sports clubs, and institutions such as the University, to explore how the land can be protected and enhanced as a recreational area, it will remain under threat of housebuilding. Miller Homes have had their eye on it for some time. Winchester City Council has met with them three times to discuss their plans. I assume this is what Cllr Wood is referring to – but there is no need for him to frighten local residents in this way. The sports and leisure facilities we need can be developed at Bar End without any houses being built there, and if necessary without using Tesco's land at all. The University has offered to help. So will local sports clubs and community groups, I am sure. It can all be done affordably and sustainably, if everyone works together. winchesterfit

4:26pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Yves1977 says...

The trouble is where is the money going to come from to develop sports facilities at Bar End??
The trouble is where is the money going to come from to develop sports facilities at Bar End?? Yves1977

5:41pm Thu 6 Feb 14

winchesterfit says...

It seems as if the University are willing to commit a significant sum towards this. Sports clubs will do what they can too, including applying for grants from their national governing bodies where they are available. I suspect it would end up costing the Council far less than going alone at River Park.
It seems as if the University are willing to commit a significant sum towards this. Sports clubs will do what they can too, including applying for grants from their national governing bodies where they are available. I suspect it would end up costing the Council far less than going alone at River Park. winchesterfit

8:05pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Stevie G B says...

I'm sure I remember reading that if the leisure centre (leisure for those in high paid jobs doing their workout before work, when I am WALKING to work!) was relocated, the favourable option was to build houses on the land!

BIG NO No! that land, leisure centre and its car park gets returned to the people! Grassed over, more trees planted, a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city!!

There's land at Bushfield Camp available! go and park it there!
I'm sure I remember reading that if the leisure centre (leisure for those in high paid jobs doing their workout before work, when I am WALKING to work!) was relocated, the favourable option was to build houses on the land! BIG NO No! that land, leisure centre and its car park gets returned to the people! Grassed over, more trees planted, a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city!! There's land at Bushfield Camp available! go and park it there! Stevie G B

11:43am Fri 7 Feb 14

winchesterfit says...

I know that the English Project were interested in the RPLC site to develop a King Alfred cultural centre and 'English Language Museum'. There's more about the rationale behind that on their website. With the recent discovery of bones that could be King Alfred's and a desire to re-excavate the old Hyde Abbey site, it would make sense to develop it as a cultural and historical area.

I'd be surprised if a housing development were pursued - the site is too flood prone (and is in fact under water at the moment!). But if the Council wanted to sell land for housing to raise money to contribute to a new sports park, they do have other suitable sites, including several underused car parks. The Council also gets a New Homes Bonus payment for all new housing in the district - apparently, according to a story in the Chronicle a few weeks ago, this year that payment was about £2m. That went straight into the revenue account, I think, but such payments could be used as capital for new community facilities instead.

Where there's a will, there's a way!
I know that the English Project were interested in the RPLC site to develop a King Alfred cultural centre and 'English Language Museum'. There's more about the rationale behind that on their website. With the recent discovery of bones that could be King Alfred's and a desire to re-excavate the old Hyde Abbey site, it would make sense to develop it as a cultural and historical area. I'd be surprised if a housing development were pursued - the site is too flood prone (and is in fact under water at the moment!). But if the Council wanted to sell land for housing to raise money to contribute to a new sports park, they do have other suitable sites, including several underused car parks. The Council also gets a New Homes Bonus payment for all new housing in the district - apparently, according to a story in the Chronicle a few weeks ago, this year that payment was about £2m. That went straight into the revenue account, I think, but such payments could be used as capital for new community facilities instead. Where there's a will, there's a way! winchesterfit

1:16pm Fri 7 Feb 14

retiredoldgit says...

Better still to have a new recreation centre in the Barton Farm development. A bigger and busier recreation centre does not belong in the City Centre, especially not on a flood plain which is currently inundated. I have not seen anyone mention this as an option and it is clearly a better option for the future as Winchester's population expands.

There is plenty of space in Barton Farm and the developers Cala Homes should be delighted to help the people of Winchester to get better recreation facilities. .
Better still to have a new recreation centre in the Barton Farm development. A bigger and busier recreation centre does not belong in the City Centre, especially not on a flood plain which is currently inundated. I have not seen anyone mention this as an option and it is clearly a better option for the future as Winchester's population expands. There is plenty of space in Barton Farm and the developers Cala Homes should be delighted to help the people of Winchester to get better recreation facilities. . retiredoldgit

2:07pm Fri 7 Feb 14

winchesterfit says...

I think the situation is too urgent for that. Local sports clubs have hundreds of people on their waiting lists and we need new facilities swiftly. The University have also said they need to move forwards with a development before the year is out. Barton Farm will not progress quickly enough, and Bar End is a better option in terms of access from surrounding villages, market towns and the M3 - it's the same distance from the Guildhall as River Park, yet you don't need to bring all the traffic round the one-way system to get to it. It's also already used for sport and recreation, with lots of pitches and of course the athletics stadium.

Not to say that there shouldn't be recreational spaces and community facilities at Barton Farm too, and I've fed back to Cala Homes on this - but it's not the place for strategic facilities that are designed to serve a wider area.

Cala Homes could contribute a bit of money towards it, though, couldn't they? And the New Homes Bonus from that development is calculated at £20m for WCC alone... that would build a LOT of sport and leisure facilities for the city...
I think the situation is too urgent for that. Local sports clubs have hundreds of people on their waiting lists and we need new facilities swiftly. The University have also said they need to move forwards with a development before the year is out. Barton Farm will not progress quickly enough, and Bar End is a better option in terms of access from surrounding villages, market towns and the M3 - it's the same distance from the Guildhall as River Park, yet you don't need to bring all the traffic round the one-way system to get to it. It's also already used for sport and recreation, with lots of pitches and of course the athletics stadium. Not to say that there shouldn't be recreational spaces and community facilities at Barton Farm too, and I've fed back to Cala Homes on this - but it's not the place for strategic facilities that are designed to serve a wider area. Cala Homes could contribute a bit of money towards it, though, couldn't they? And the New Homes Bonus from that development is calculated at £20m for WCC alone... that would build a LOT of sport and leisure facilities for the city... winchesterfit

4:47pm Tue 11 Feb 14

macbeth101 says...

what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep.
what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep. macbeth101

7:28pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Jimtiddlypom says...

The huge **** up arose from trying to rush to a decision. It would be foolish now to rush to a different decision on a facility that should last for 50 years. In any case it will take over a year or two to build so there cannot be a swift provision of new facilities, unless swift means "some years but not quite as many as a careful decision would take".

As for the New Homes Bonus - that is not spare cash WCC has lying around. You can't just say "spend that on a leisure centre" without taking it away from being spent on other services.
The huge **** up arose from trying to rush to a decision. It would be foolish now to rush to a different decision on a facility that should last for 50 years. In any case it will take over a year or two to build so there cannot be a swift provision of new facilities, unless swift means "some years but not quite as many as a careful decision would take". As for the New Homes Bonus - that is not spare cash WCC has lying around. You can't just say "spend that on a leisure centre" without taking it away from being spent on other services. Jimtiddlypom

10:39pm Tue 11 Feb 14

campfreddie says...

macbeth101 wrote:
what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep.
I completely agree. My family pays a fortune to be members of the gym. Why does Winchesterfit think that the tax payer should pay for an elitist facility in Bar End where you have to get in a car to reach it. If Winchesterfit wants such a facility so badly, why doesn't he or she get funding for such a project and negotiate the purchase of land from Tesco, then try and run it as a private business? Probably because they would fail at the first hurdle. If it wasn't for the likes of Members of the Riverpark who pay a membership fee, there wouldn't be such a facility.
[quote][p][bold]macbeth101[/bold] wrote: what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep.[/p][/quote]I completely agree. My family pays a fortune to be members of the gym. Why does Winchesterfit think that the tax payer should pay for an elitist facility in Bar End where you have to get in a car to reach it. If Winchesterfit wants such a facility so badly, why doesn't he or she get funding for such a project and negotiate the purchase of land from Tesco, then try and run it as a private business? Probably because they would fail at the first hurdle. If it wasn't for the likes of Members of the Riverpark who pay a membership fee, there wouldn't be such a facility. campfreddie

2:56pm Wed 12 Feb 14

Jimtiddlypom says...

macbeth101 wrote:
what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep.
I'm afraid you are fundamentally wrong - all the residents of Winchester Town pay a very large amount of money for the upkeep of the green fields through their Parish Precept (ie part of the council tax).

In any case it should not be for one interest group to decide what happens to the leisure centre.
[quote][p][bold]macbeth101[/bold] wrote: what a mess, I was looking forward to the new centre. At the moment it's falling apart and parking is a nightmare in the evening. Surely members of river park should have the strongest say in what happens - we're the ones who pay the monthly membership fees that keep the centre running. Users of the green fields that were going to be built on don't pay anything for its upkeep.[/p][/quote]I'm afraid you are fundamentally wrong - all the residents of Winchester Town pay a very large amount of money for the upkeep of the green fields through their Parish Precept (ie part of the council tax). In any case it should not be for one interest group to decide what happens to the leisure centre. Jimtiddlypom

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