In March, Winchester City Council approved the disposal of a large section (17%) of the Winchester Recreation Ground, or River Park, to the University of Southampton, without first asking the public. The scheme will enable the University to create a massive expansion of their Central Winchester Park Avenue Campus and it will bring hundreds more students to the city.

  • Loss to the public of large area of River Park land and car park
  • Land designated and protected for recreational use
  • No public consultation and no other options considered
  • No control over the development or the ability to sell on
  • Hundreds more students in our small city

Friends of River Park is taking legal action to challenge the Council’s decision

The residents of Winchester should decide what use or uses to which the site may be put. Winchester City Council simply acts as a statutory trustee of this land for the residents of Winchester. If the disposal is successful, this will deny the people of Winchester rights over the land, which has been protected for their recreational use for 120 years.


  • This land is a major part of Winchester’s River Park. For well over a century its purpose has been to provide a play, recreation, sports and leisure environment for the City of Winchester. It is highly valued by many locals and visitors and should be preserved for the public’s enjoyment, health and welfare; it should not be handed over to a private, commercial developer.
  • The area is designated “open space”, protected by statutory law and by a covenant dating back to 1902.
  • The University will have ‘virtual freehold basis’, no restriction on selling the site on to another organisation, no obligation to repair (including during the initial 5-year period of its 150-year lease) and absolute discretion over its campus scheme. There is no guarantee of public access, and certainly none for the next 35 years.
  • The Council has provided no opportunity at all for public consultation, prior to the decision being taken to dispose of the land. “Consultation” after the event is like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. This is undemocratic and simply unacceptable, and it is far from the first time that residents’ views have been ignored.
  • The land disposal includes the large leisure centre building and swimming pool, the big indoor bowls centre and car park, the well-used outdoor skatepark, all the green area around the streams and most of the current River Park car park.
  • The land lies in a zone where the flood risk is high, and it is upstream of the city and the Cathedral. Any major development will bring greater flood risk.
  • The land lies next to the tranquil, historic Hyde Abbey Garden, and through the site flow the unique chalk streams of the River Itchen which are in danger of pollution. Our green environment needs protecting from inappropriate development.
  • The River Park land, when considered with the undeveloped, old police station site, would enable the University of Southampton to more than triple the size of its current Central Winchester Park Avenue Campus and bring in hundreds more students.
  • There has been no procurement process for this disposal and no other organisation has been asked to present options for the site. Why is this the case and how can it be right?



  • The Council needs to be STOPPED from selling this land, without giving the public any opportunity to have their say.

Best wishes,

Friends of River Park



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