WINCHESTER civic chiefs have given crucial backing to a community-inspired project for a new pavilion at a city park.

The Pavilion Project, based in Hyde, has raised £205,000 from hundreds of donors towards a replacement for a dilapidated structure at North Walls Recreation Ground.

City councillors on the town forum, representing the city wards, agreed to back the £800,000 scheme with a grant of £295,000 to meet a funding shortfall.

It means that tenders can now be sought for building work to start this year.

Mike Caldwell, of the Pavilion Project, told the forum: "The new, all-year-round pavilion will generate an increase to many thousands of person/visits which, in turn, will generate increased income; the current pavilion stands unused for a large part of the year and operates at a loss to the city council. We are confident the new pavilion, at the very least, will be cost neutral and, as such, it should be regarded as an investment, rather than an expense."

Tim Fell, from the project, told the forum that currently around 2,200 visits to the pavilion. The new one would attract 61,000 visits a year and generate income of £19,000.

Several city councillors declared an interest in that they had contributed to the project appeal. They were Lib Dems Kim Gottlieb, Martin Tod, Dominic Hiscock, Anne Weir and Conservative Fiona Mather.

Cllr Kim Gottlieb said: "Sport is incredibly important thing in society; good for physical and mental health. It enhances equality, it's inclusive and does an enormous amount off good."

The meeting heard that a like for like replacement of the pavilion would cost £500,000. The £295,000 from CIL funding, developers' contributions.

All councillors on the forum, from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, voted to approve the £295,000 funding although Cllr Mike Craske had concerns about the business case for the new structure and Cllr Weir was worried all the CIL money was going to one project.

Emma Back, chief executive of the Winchester Sport and Leisure Trust (SALT) welcomed the decision saying it would inspire greater use of the park.

A sub-group of councillors is looking at provision of toilets and cafe once the River Park Leisure Centre closes early next year.

The meeting heard the council attention would now focus on the future of the parks in Highcliffe where the new leisure centre is being built.

Cllr Jamie Scott said: "The Pavilion Project should be thanked for all their efforts. But King George V should not be left out. This something vital for the Highcliffe community."

Janet Berry of the Highcliffe Community Forum for Action said the local people hoped the new sports pavilion would also have scope for wider community use.

Chris Allen, a Highcliffe resident, raised a different issue in the public participation section. called for the grounds maintenance composting centre, which he branded a "dump" to be relocated. He said ID Verde trucks were regularly passing through the area near children's play areas.

Richard Botham, strategic director, replied: "The green waste compound is incredibly important. We have been trying to identify other locations for it. So far we haven't been able to do that. It is not a 'dump'. It's a really important facility that supports grounds maintenance throughout the city. If it was located further from the city that could add to our carbon emissions."

After the forum Cllr Paula Ferguson, St Bartholomew ward, commented: "We’re really delighted that the Pavilion Project can now progress. The design is very eye-catching, and it’s been clear for a long time that the existing pavilion needs to be replaced. The new Pavilion will provide both the best sporting facilities and an exciting new community space for local residents and groups."

She said that whilst the new pavilion will be located on North Walls recreation ground, it will serve many groups across the city.