WINCHESTER civic chiefs have revealed the university wants to develop a sports centre on playing fields on the southern edge of the city.

Council leader Keith Wood, said vice chancellor Joy Carter confirmed she wants to develop land at Bar End currently owned by supermarket giant Tesco.

The news comes as the city council reviews its plans for the River Park Leisure Centre.

Cllr Wood, told cabinet that Prof Carter has written to him to say it “would be in a position to make a significant capital contribution to this scheme and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss further a possible development at Bar End.”

But some city councillors are not so sure the supermarket owners will sell the Garrison Ground so easily.

Cllr Chris Pines said: “My personal view is we get all the information first and we do not go into the decision making. The difficulty with a lot of people is making them aware of the different factors behind everything.

“We want to see the best option for the best deal we can get because it’s going to be very expensive.”

Civic chiefs met to discuss a shortlist of options for the replacement of the River Park Leisure Centre which also included building on the site currently occupied by the leisure centre or building on land currently occupied by the tennis courts, artificial pitch and the ‘minimum necessary additional land’ next to the courts.

Many residents had been angry that the council’s preferred option, a new site at North Walls, involved a loss of green space.

Cllr Keith Wood, chairman of the cabinet, said: “We have listened to the strongly voiced and there’s a strong argument for the relocation to provide high quality leisure facilities for the district.

“I will be writing to the chairman of Tesco to see if I can get a clearer answer from them,” he added.

“A final decision will be made later in this year and will be made by all 57 councillors and not by the cabinet.”

Members of the public raised concerns over the proposed rebuilding at the existing site citing the flooding issues that have troubled the district for the last fortnight but stated that the facilities desperately need updating.

Karen Barratt, a member of the public speaking at the meeting, said: “It would make no sense at all to refurbish the leisure centre where it is if it means increasing the footprint.

“When advice is taken on building on flood areas I don’t think it’s been taken quite seriously enough. When the weather gets better, if it ever gets better, and the water subsides I don’t want to feel this decision will be business as usual.”

Another member of public, Emma Back, of Fit for the Future pressure group, said: “It’s time for Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council and the University of Winchester, the key landowners, to do more for the future of sport for this district.”

A University of Winchester spokesman said yesterday: “The university already has extensive sports facilities at Bar End. The Winchester Sports Stadium already includes an athleticstrack with supporting facilities for field events, an all-weather pitch, complete with floodlighting, and a large pavilion offering changing rooms, showers and meeting room space.

“The cost of building at Bar End is yet to be determined, as there are a range of potential options to cost. The university recognises that a collaboration with the city council and others would have the potential to deliver an impressive suite of sports facilities, which would be an asset to the whole community.”