WINCHESTER civic chiefs are pressing ahead with plans to replace River Park Leisure Centre.

The Conservative-controlled council has decided against building a new complex at Bar End, preferring to replace the existing centre with a new facility on the same site.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting as the Chronicle went to press yesterday, council leader, Keith Wood, said the Bar End option was not financially viable.

“For the council to take on a debt of £25m to £30m seems pretty high risk, even where there are suggested levels of outside funding. Provision for elite sportspeople is important, but our primary aim is to provide facilities to peo¬ple of all abilities.”

He added: “The existing site at River Park is our best option to go forward.”

The news was welcomed by both Labour and Lib Dem group leaders.

A progress report will come back to the cabinet in September, including details of what the new complex will provide. It is understood it will include a 25-metre swimming pool, a new sports hall, and a fitness suite.

The news will dismay campaigners who argued for a new facility at Bar End, including a 50-metre pool.