You will probably be aware that on Thursday 10th March, the City Council’s Cabinet took the decision to sell, by granting a 150-year lease, the River Park Leisure Centre site to the University of Southampton. This decision was taken despite 438 written objections by the public, and the views of several thousands of petitioners, who want the land to remain in public ownership, for public recreation.

Friends of River Park, a group of concerned residents, challenged the legality of the Council’s first attempt to hand over the land and the Council conceded that they should have given the public due notice in order for objections to be considered. People wanted to be asked for their views about the future of the site. However, despite what we perceive as legal flaws, and the lack of public consultation, the transaction has been approved.

Friends of River Park is now consulting specialist lawyers as to whether there can be a legal challenge to the decision. This process will involve an application to the High Court for Judicial Review. If the advice is that there are grounds for a successful challenge, a formal letter will be written to the Council pointing out the ways in which the law may have been broken.

Should the Council accept the points raised, the decision would then be withdrawn (like the first one) and we will have won the right for people to be given the opportunity, hitherto denied to them, to suggest sustainable, viable projects (with funding proposals). Here are some examples of what could happen: a public performance space/auditorium, exhibition space, a lido, a MUGA, formal gardens, a café, a bandstand, a new play area, keeping the Indoor Bowls Club and the Skate Park – and/or a simple return to green parkland. If there are viable options, they can then be carefully evaluated before a democratic decision is taken.

However, if the Council refuses to acknowledge the flaws in its decision-making, we will need to go all the way to the High Court for a Judge to make a judgment about the issues. If the judgment is made in our favour, the sale will go no further.

The Judicial Review process is not cheap. We clearly need financial support to continue our action and we have, therefore, doubled our initial target of £5,000 to cover the next stage. We ask you to give as generously as you can if you share our ambition to keep River Park a public park for the benefit of all who live in Winchester, or who come to visit our lovely city.

Why should you help?

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


We need your help to keep up the pressure on the Council to call a halt to this plan now, and to consult the public about the future use of this valuable land. Please give, if you can, to the Action Fund.

Categories: Breaking News