River Park Leisure Centre Winchester

Winchester: leisure centre site has uncertain future after 2021 closure

LEGAL restrictions are expected to make any future use of the River Park Leisure Centre site more challenging once it closes in 15 months’ time.

The popular council-owned facility in Gordon Road is set to be replaced by the new complex at Bar End, which is currently under construction.

Debate has simmered on what should happen to the building once it closes.

However, restrictions in place on the land could mean it is not a straightforward case of securing planning permission.

Members of Winchester City Council’s cabinet were yesterday (October 23) due to discuss the future use of the site as early-stage work begins on exploring possibilities.

A report to civic leaders said consideration of future land uses for both the building and surrounding site at River Park are subject to historical restrictions, which relate back to the original site purchase.

At present the building and land may only be used for “recreational and open space and associated uses”. Residential use is not permitted without discharge of the covenant by the Lands Tribunal. This would be needed alongside transferring the allocation of the land from one purpose to another, which in itself requires consultation and detailed evidence.

The report by Cllr Kelsie Learney, council cabinet member for housing and asset management, said: “The development of the Winchester Sport and Leisure Park will mean the River Park Leisure Centre (RPLC) will close to the public in January 2021. The building has reached the end of its economic life and would require considerable expenditure if it was to be renovated.

“The RPLC site has the potential to be used for a wide range of uses, subject to planning and legal constraints, and there is likely to be considerable interest in the market if it was to offered for sale by way of a freehold or long leasehold interest.

“The closure of RPLC in early 2021 will create some property implications in respect of the obsolete building and possible re-provision of certain facilities that directly support users of the adjoining open spaces.”

Concerns have been raised by residents that the closure of the leisure centre will impact on Recreation Ground users, primarily in terms of toilet provision. Winchester Town Forum is set to discuss this issue and other aspects of recreation facilities in the area at a meeting next month.

As previously reported, the city council hosted a public consultation event to discuss the future of the North Walls area in March, which more than 800 people attended. Many residents wanted to see a leisure centre retained on the River Park site.

The new leisure centre at Bar End is costing the council £38million to deliver and construction began earlier this year.

Source: Hampshire Chronicle

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