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Winchester City Council approves Agreement to Lease RPLC site to University of Southampton

Winchester City Council’s Cabinet has today (9 March 2022) approved an Agreement to Lease the River Park Leisure Centre (RPLC) site to the University of Southampton. 

The University of Southampton’s ambitious plans for the RPLC site are part of a £100 million development programme for the university.  This seeks to modernise the existing Winchester School of Art campus and extend into the site of the now decommissioned River Park Leisure Centre.

The university, working with Winchester City Council, held a series of public and stakeholder briefings to update local people on the proposals. At these briefings, the university outlined its vision for a state-of-the-art, sustainable campus which would offer benefits to the city’s economy whilst retaining the existing green space and outdoor public leisure facilities surrounding the site.  This includes the skate park, which will remain open to the public and be managed and maintained by the council.

The council and the university will now be required to undertake a detailed consultation with the people of Winchester to develop the proposals.  The outcome of this process will then form the basis of a planning application and, if successful, a longer-term lease would be awarded to the university.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, Cabinet Member for Housing and Asset Management, said: “We welcome the significant commitment which the University of Southampton is making to Winchester.  This Agreement demonstrates just how closely our two organisations are strategically aligned.  Any development will be undertaken sustainably and, as well as the economic benefits that an extended campus would bring, the university is keen to create a cultural resource for our city, something which we know local people want to see.  The university’s aspirations closely match the council’s vision for the Leisure Park area, support our longer-term strategic goals and will be key to helping us invest in future generations of people living and working in Winchester.”

“We are also pleased that the Cabinet decision enables us to enter into a separate legal agreement with the university, allowing the council to maintain and manage the skate park. The council and the university always intended the skate park would be retained, but this agreement further safeguards its future as not only a key local recreational facility, but one that attracts national, and even international interest.”

Wendy Appleby, Vice President (Operations) at the University of Southampton said: “This decision by Cabinet is great news for the university as it now allows us to explore all options for the development of the site in partnership with local people. Increasing the University presence in Winchester will attract students from both the UK and overseas in the future as well as making a significant, wider contribution to the future development of the city of Winchester.”

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