PLANS to redevelop Basingstoke’s Leisure Park are being “re-explored” following a delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic and legal challenges.

The development director at NewRiver REIT - the borough council’s development partner for the £300 million project - told the Gazette that it hopes to re-engage with the public in the latter part of this year.

The transformation of the 60-acre Leisure Park, which is home to the Aquadrome and Planet Ice, had already been delayed because of two legal challenges directed at the council by AEW, which owns Festival Place.

AWE took legal action against the council over the procurement process which led NewRiver becoming the development partner.

This was resolved after a high court judge dismissed the claims.

NewRiver, whose portfolio totals £1.4 billion, signed the development agreement with the borough council to transform the Leisure Park in March 2018.

Their plans are to create a leisure and retail destination with double the leisure space using £300m of private investment, meaning the borough council won’t have to spend public money.

This includes creating a designer outlet village, new activities and experiences, and replacing the council’s Aquadrome.

However, the delays have meant that much-needed upgrades to the ice rink have not happened, resulting in it now being in “poor repair”, according to a report to the borough council’s Community, Environment and Partnerships Committee last week.

The report to the council details that, as freeholder of the land, the borough council will fund the cost of structural surveys to determine whether the ice rink could be repaired and at what cost.

These are now being carried out and the results are expected at the end of this month.

In conjunction with NewRiver, the council has “indicated a willingness to explore options to retain the ice rink in its current location”.

It is now hoped that the redevelopment project can move forward to the next stage, with extensive work needed on a planning application as well as discussions with existing operators about future plans and potential new occupiers to bring attractions to the town, such as high adrenaline pursuits and virtual reality e-sports.

Jamie Whitfield, development director at NewRiver, said: “The past few months have created uncertain and challenging times but there is tentative life coming back into the UK leisure industry. As the sector prepares to begin to re-open this weekend in line with the government’s COVID-19 recovery plans, we are pleased to say that Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and NewRiver can begin to re-explore plans for the transformation of Basingstoke Leisure Park.

“The proposed redevelopment of the council’s ageing 60-acre leisure park would create new activities and experiences and double the size of the existing leisure facilities. To complement the significantly enhanced leisure activities, plans also include a designer outlet village, creating an exciting and unique new destination. Subject to following Government advice on public safety around coronavirus, we hope to re-engage with the public and key stakeholders in the latter part of this year.”