Responding to the decision by Winchester City Council Planning Committee to back the proposed design for a new leisure centre at Bar End, Leader of the Lib Dem Group, Lucille Thompson, commented:
The Leisure Centre is an incredibly important project for the area and the city – but the project is on the wrong track and today’s decision doesn’t affect that.
I’m genuinely concerned that the planning committee has just approved an impractical unaffordable design that won’t meet local needs and will never be built.
Planning is only one of the decisions that has to be taken – and there are a whole lot of other decisions being taken where the project is going badly wrong.
Of course, we are disappointed by today’s result. The objectors made a very strong case. The plan to tackle traffic remains wholly inadequate. And the plan for the site as a whole is still incredibly weak. If the planning committee had refused it, it would have been a great opportunity to rethink the plans.
We all want to see a new sports and leisure centre built at Bar End, but it does need to be a centre that is fit for the next thirty or forty years. The current design of the sports hall contains the same number of courts as the one it’s replacing at River Park. It just won’t cope with a growing population – particularly when the council wants to be supporting more people to be physically active. Clubs will also be left in the same boat as before, looking around for venues to hire.
There are also real questions about the cost of the new centre. Much of the proposed design – including the changing facilities and the sports hall – is very impractical and expensive to manage. The cost has already increased by £9 million. From everything we can see, the Conservatives have developed an impractical plan that the council can’t afford to build.