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Skate park’s future to be further safeguarded by council under revised terms with University of Southampton on River Park Leisure Centre deal

Winchester City Council is recommending that its Cabinet agrees to a proposal to leaseback the land on which the skate park is sited when it enters into a legal agreement with the University of Southampton to lease the River Park Leisure Centre site. 

This approach – which will be discussed at tomorrow’s Scrutiny Committee on 3 March – would clarify the council’s long-held aspiration to safeguard the skate park as ‘play space’. 

The proposed agreement with the University to expand its higher education uses already allows for the safeguarding of the skate park.  However, the leaseback will ensure that the council will be able continue to manage and maintain the facility in the future securing the interests of its users.

The recommendation follows recent positive discussions between the council and users of the skate park requesting greater clarity on its future use.  It also reflects local support for preserving the skate park for the people of Winchester, not only as a key local recreational facility, but also one that attracts national – and even international – interest.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, Cabinet Member for Housing and Asset Management, said:

“This represents a very clear and simple solution to an issue which has become overly complicated and opaque at times. It has always been the council’s intention to preserve the skate park. 

“By entering into a separate legal agreement that allows the council to continue to manage and maintain the skate park, we are demonstrating how we have listened to – and acted on – the views of local people, many of whom have been concerned that losing our stewardship of the facility would create uncertainty about its future. In fact, we have invested significantly in the skate park in recent years and there has never been any intention for the land to be used for anything other than a skate park. This agreement is aimed at reassuring local people that the skate park will remain unaffected by any future development which may take place on the land around it.

“At the same time, the University of Southampton has the opportunity to expand across a significant part of the site, we are investing in the requirements of the city and balancing the preservation of existing open space with allowing an already developed area to be redeveloped for the benefit of many generations of young people to come. 

“In our proposals for the lease of the River Park Leisure Centre site, I believe we have been able to maintain that balance with the best possible outcome for everyone.

“As with our proposals for the regeneration of Central Winchester, we have listened to what local people have told us and demonstrated our desire to transform the site of the vacant RPLC building in keeping with their expectations.”

This agreement will allow the university, which has a vested interest in our city, to explore the creation of a state-of-the-art, sustainable campus for the University. This would attract a multi-million-pound investment into the city and offer a wide range of study and employment opportunities, particularly for young people.  In addition to the skate park, other outdoor public leisure facilities surrounding the site will be retained including North Walls recreation ground and the play park (which is not part of the development site). 

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