A NEW play group will open in Winchester after councillors approved plans for a multi-use centre.

The First Winchester Scout Hut, on Fleming Road in Weeke, is used by around 190 youngsters every week, and will now be refurbished after plans were approved at a recent Winchester City Council planning committee meeting.

The hut will be re-roofed and get a new outer ‘skin’ to stop it from leaking, be extended by about 20 feet, and redesigned on the inside to make it appropriate for a pre-school.

The meeting heard from David Kesby, chairman of First Winchester Scouts, who said the hut has been in desperate need of repair for almost five years, and urged councillors to consider the other opportunities a renovation would offer to the Weeke area.

“The facility has been used for over 50 years and this would mean opening it up for the local community,” he said. “It would contribute to the social and economic fabric of the area – it would mean that 30 families could get their child into a pre-school, and go out to work. We teach the scouts moral and social skills, and they go on to contribute greatly to their local area.”

Councillors debated on the need for a new pre-school in Weeke, and asked whether the noise implications on residents would be too great.

The plans indicate that restrictions would be placed on outdoor play time, so as to remain in keeping with other schools in the area, and keep noise to a minimum out of usual play hours and reduce disturbance to neighbours.

Cllr Michael Read said the move would bring the community more opportunities.

“Noise will not, I think, be a vast problem but it is a wonderful opportunity for not only the scouts, but also the local community,” he said.

The plans were unanimously approved, and work is due to start in May for completion by August.

The First Winchester Scouts will be walking from Brownsea Island, the site of the first scout group set up by Baden Powell, back to their hut in July in a bid to fundraise for the refurbishment.