THE undeveloped part of an open space being developed for a new sports centre will be protected in future.

Winchester civic chiefs have agreed a legal commitment to protect the Garrison Ground at Bar End as playing fields.

Part of the open space is being developed for a new sports and leisure centre which is due to open in 2021.

The city council is finalising a deal with Fields in Trust which protects parks and open spaces.

The council says the 6.65-acre Garrison Ground is an integral part of the Winchester Sport & Leisure Park.

The area, and after the new leisure centre opens, will provide two football pitches, informal recreational use, and measures will be taken to encourage biodiversity by creating new habitats.

It lies between the new sports centre, the athletics stadium and Chilcomb Lane.

King George V playing fields adjacent to the site have existing protection from future development.

Cllr Martin Tod, cabinet member for service quality and transformation, said: “The Garrison Ground is a much-valued part of Winchester providing recreational space for the community. We want people to enjoy the Garrison Ground now, and to ensure that this precious green space is protected for future generations."

The next steps are that the council will prepare the work to enter into a deed of dedication with Fields in Trust.

Nationally, Fields in Trust legally protects the King George's Fields, 471 public recreation grounds set up as a memorial to King George V, who died in 1935.

The plan has ben supported by SALT (Winchester Sport Art and Leisure Trust).

On part of the protected land wild flower grassland will be sown to give a habitat to reptiles.