A last-ditch call has been put out to all Winchester residents concerned about the Council’s proposals to hand over the part of the North Walls Recreation Ground on which stands the redundant River Park Leisure Centre, the Indoor Bowling Club and the skate park. At the Council’s Cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning, at 9.30am, the final decision is due to be taken and people are asked to attend the meeting, in person or by tuning in online: https://democracy.winchester.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=2742.

Friends of River Park is supporting a petition by Sam Feltham that the Council pause the process for a six-month period, so that the public may have a say in what should happen to this publicly owned site. They say this is a really terrible deal for Winchester, because:

  • This land is a Public Park, for public recreational use, held by the Council on trust for the residents of Winchester.
  • This area is designated “open space”: it has statutory protection, which will be lost once disposed of to a commercial entity such as the University of Southampton.
  • The University will have virtual freehold of the site.
  • The University will have no restriction on selling the site on to another.
  • There is no condition for the University to provide publicly accessible performance space.
  • The public will not have open access to the site for 35 years, as the site will be exclusively for use for student education under the terms of the sale.
  • It seems the bizarre ‘lease-back’ arrangement for the skate park may just be an attempt to appease protesters – the covenant (that the land is to be used as a public park for public recreation) will still need to be breached.
  • There are already more students in relation to Winchester’s population than in Oxford or Cambridge.
  • The Council has provided no opportunity at all for public consultation.
  • The Council’s notice of a disposal of open space land is defective.
  • The city has a shortfall of “open space”, under Winchester’s Local Plan.
  • Our green environment, especially the River Itchen, needs protecting from inappropriate development: this proposal would contravene Local Plan policies.
  • Any large building will cast shadows over the public tennis courts and all-weather 3G pitch.
  • The site is at a high risk of flooding: the fewer buildings, or smaller facilities, on this site the better.
  • The public will lose a large proportion of the Recreation Ground car park.

There have been many legal challenges faced by the Council in recent years but there appears to be no acknowledgement of mistakes made and only a determination by the administration to press ahead with their proposals for River Park, with scant regard to civic responsibility, democratic accountability and lawfulness. It seems, sadly, that what has been  said by Friends of River Park and by hundreds of objectors and thousands of petitioners has fallen on deaf ears. No reasonable arguments will deflect the Council from their intentions. 

We ask the Council, once more, to call a halt to the River Park proposals for a proper public consultation to be held. 

Categories: NewsUpdate