23 October 2013:
Statement on the future of River Park Leisure Centre.
Speaking at Winchester City Council’s Cabinet, Council Leader, Cllr Keith Wood, said:
“A great deal has been said and written already about the future of River Park Leisure Centre. I want to take this opportunity to clarify the current position and outline what happens next. Contrary to reports nothing will be considered that would prevent the bonfire taking place, or impact on the rugby field.
“The issue is simple: the Council faces spending a significant amount of public money just to keep the Leisure Centre going. Should we refurbish the Centre or replace it? That has not changed – providing the answer is the problem but, as yet, nothing has been decided.
“The Council’s aim is to provide high-quality leisure facilities in Winchester for the coming years at a cost we can afford.
“A proposed list of the facilities needed for a Centre was put forward some time ago and, apart from suggestions concerning a 50m pool, we have had little comment from the public or councillors. Consequently, we are working on the assumption that the list is broadly what is both needed and wanted.
“Initial work has shown that only two sites are realistic options: Bar End and North Walls. Both are problematic as will be seen from the available information that the Council has put into the public domain.
“We will shortly work up some detail on these options and display them in the Leisure Centre, the Guildhall and on-line. We will list both advantages and disadvantages so that residents can question and comment.
“There will be four options: new build at Bar End using the playing fields; new build at North Walls either a) using the tennis courts, artificial turf pitch and a strip of land alongside or b) using the tennis courts, artificial turf pitch and a significant part of the existing leisure centre site; refurbish the existing centre.”
“Council needs to come to a decision soon on which of these options they will take. Apart from the uncertainty of the present situation the condition of the existing centre may need large sums spent on it just to keep it going.
“No option will please everyone but doing nothing is not an option if we are to continue to have leisure facilities available in the future.”
SavetheRec welcomes the fact that Winchester City Council is starting to listen to our hundreds of supporters from across Winchester.
Our message to councillors is this: do not vote on this matter without proper information. We still lack costings for all options. We lack transparency regarding the actual state of the leisure centre and existing contracts with DC Leisure. We lack proper analysis of the health, environmental and traffic consequences of a new 300-space car park in the city centre. We also lack a genuine public consultation: a poorly conducted survey of a few users of the indoor facilities does not count.
As regards the four options, our position remains the same: the council must not build on free, green, open space. William Barrow Simonds, to whom we owe this wonderful city-centre park, said that "I sold the land to the Citizens of Winchester for a Recreation Ground and not for building purposes". Our elderly park-users, children, dog-lovers, outdoor sports people and council taxpayers all say the same.