See below for a list of frequently asked questions regarding the leisure centre project.
Why would the Council like to replace River Park Leisure Centre?
River Park Leisure Centre was originally designed and built 42 years ago to serve a smaller population and different sporting and leisure needs. The swimming pool is smaller than we would build today, the spaces for classes and activities aren’t ideal and the sports hall is too small for some events and activities. The other important consideration is that the building is not constructed to modern standards of energy efficiency which means that it is very expensive to run and has a high carbon footprint. The building is not falling down and structurally there is nothing wrong with it that cannot be fixed or replaced – but after 40 years of wear and tear any commercial or institutional building needs a substantial upgrade. Other leisure centres of a similar age are also being replaced for the same reason; for example Fleming Park Leisure Centre in Eastleigh.
Could the existing building be refurbished to achieve all of that?
The energy efficiency and overall environment of the existing building could be improved, but even an expensive refurbishment will not increase the size of the sports facilities. That is the main reason why the Council’s preferred option is a replacement facility.
How much will a new Leisure Centre cost?
A new build centre with the facilities that Winchester needs will probably cost around £34 million.
How would that be funded?
The Council would have to borrow most of the money and pay it back over a number of years. It can do this at very low interest rates. If the new leisure centre generates a surplus of income over expenditure, which we believe it would, then we should be able to use this to pay back most of the money every year. This would mean that the cost to the Council Tax payer is kept quite low. But we’re not sure of that yet, and it is one of the things that we are looking at closely at before we make the final decision.
Are you looking at partnership funding?
Yes we are. The University of Winchester wants to upgrade the facilities that its students have access to, both for recreational and educational purposes. The University has agreed to contribute in the region of £6 million. The Pindar Trust has also agreed to contribute around £1million towards the cost of a hydrotherapy pool. We will also be looking at other partnership funding sources and grants for new sports facilities.
If you do replace the Leisure Centre, why not do it at North Walls?
We looked at two options for a replacement at North Walls. One was building on the edge of the playing fields next to the existing building. Local residents were strongly opposed to this so we haven’t pursued that option. Rebuilding on the existing site was also considered. This would be possible if we cleared the site and started again, but this would mean that Winchester had no leisure centre for between two and three years which the Council and sports clubs want to avoid. Rebuilding in sections would be very expensive and still mean that some facilities were not available for a long time. So replacement at North Walls is not the preferred option.
What option are you considering at Bar End?
The option we have decided to look at is to use a combination of land which is owned by the City Council, University of Winchester and Hampshire County Council which is to the east of the existing athletics track.
What feasibility work has been carried out?
Numerous studies both technical and strategic have been produced for this project to ensure that the facility is right for the Winchester District in terms of size, location, facility mix, cost and community need.
Has there been any consultation with regards to the Bar End proposal?
Local residents, sports clubs, national governing bodies of sport, local businesses, community groups, existing leisure centre users and land owners near to the site have been consulted on the proposals.
What will happen to the existing building at North Walls when you move to Bar End?
The existing building will become redundant and will be demolished. The site will then be available for reuse. There are no plans for any particular reuse at the moment. The Council has not made any assumptions about selling the site linked to funding plans for the new leisure centre.
What about other recreational facilities at North Walls?
The playing fields and pitches won’t be affected by moving the leisure centre. North Walls will remain a very important outdoor recreational area for Winchester sports clubs and local residents.