CAMPAIGNERS in Winchester are furious that civic chiefs have withheld alternative proposals for a new leisure centre.

The current exhibition by the city council outlines four options for replacing the River Park Leisure Centre, but controversy surrounds one of them as it would involve building on playing fields.

But a packed meeting attended by 200 people on Monday heard that council leader Keith Wood has been presented with at least two more alternatives which would not require any more land than the centre now occupies.

Despite calls for greater transparency from action groups like Save the Rec, the alternatives have not been made public.

Alex Perrin, a coach at Winchester Rugby Club, based at North Walls, said: “The council have paid using our money for more options to be produced and I know Keith Wood had those options and was showing them around in the Green Man pub three weeks ago, but for whatever reason he has not put them forward for public consultation. I’m very angry.”

Martin Wilson, 43, company director and resident of St Thomas Street, said: “Three of us met Keith Wood at the Green Man pub and during that he came up with some diagrams and there are a number of options presented to the council. At least two of them showed the there was no need to build over the chalk stream.

“Two of them were exclusively building on the current footprint of the leisure centre. It’s frustrating that the options have not been brought to the table as we would expect to see. We do not want hidden agendas.”
Some councillors were unaware of the alternative options outlined in a report by Savills.

Cllr Jane Rutter said: “I had no idea there were other proposals and I think we could have discussed them all and not just have the decision of a small clique from the Conservative party, presenting us with a fait accompli.

“We need to make sure that we build properly and not with this pathetic excuse of a display that’s currently going on. It’s ludicrous.”

Cllr Brian Collin said: “I have not seen them. I think the consultation has been handled in the wrong way. Doing it an open way you get a consensus and you build up the picture in a more rational way.”

There has also been criticism of the reports themselves.

Tony Pryor, 66, of Worthy Road, the former chief executive of an engineering consortium, said they lacked sufficient detail.

“This is not a consulting engineers report. I think that document is (the council’s recommended option for developing at North Walls) is appalling. It’s a qualitative report based on opinion and assertion. Two weeks work and you could find out where people travel from and they haven’t done it.”

At the meeting on Monday at Winchester Rugby Club an informal vote saw a unanimous show of hands in favour of the council “going back to the drawing board.”

Campaigner John Andrews said: “This meeting is because we do not think we have had enough information and there hasn’t been enough public consultation and we want more.”

* The public exhibition of the four options will be at the Tourist Information Centre at the Guildhall and the leisure centre until Monday December 2.