A NEW sports hall could be built to ease concerns over the facilities at the £38million leisure centre currently being planned for Winchester.

A report put before Winchester City Council’s (WCC) leisure centre committee on Tuesday revealed leader Cllr Caroline Horrill will look into the possibility of developing a four-court sports hall elsewhere in the district.

It follows fierce criticism of the plan to include an eight-court sport hall, rather than 12, at the new Bar End facility that will replace River Park Leisure Centre.

As previously reported, WCC’s overview and scrutiny committee heard in November that a large numbers of councillors and members of the public had concerns over the planned facilities.

Lib Dem councillor Martin Tod said that if the issue was not addressed before the plans were progressed, there would be a risk that the project could be scuppered, leaving Winchester without a sports and leisure centre.

Conservative councillor Kim Gottlieb added: “The cabinet decision to reduce the size of the sports hall is misguided and, in many respects, bewildering.”

Cllr Gottlieb raised the issue once again at this week’s committee, but portfolio holder for health and wellbeing Cllr Lisa Griffiths reassured members that extensive research had gone into making sure the council had made the right decision.

A feasibility study, costing £50,000, will now be carried out to assess the best location and what type of additional facility would be best to support demand around the entire Winchester district area.

The report added that the council will explore whether it would be best to develop a new stand alone facility, or to add to an existing site somewhere other than in the city of Winchester.

Preliminary designs and costings will also be carried out, with initial estimates in the region of £3million.

However, at a cabinet meeting in November Cllr Martin Prince – a member of the leisure centre committee – said: “How much extra would a 12-court facility [at Bar End] cost us?

“I’ve spoken with Cllr Guy Ashton [portfolio holder for finance], he indicated that to have the other four courts was an additional £2m over 40 years.”

Councillors have already signed off plans for the facilities at the Bar End centre, which will include a 50m swimming pool, a learner pool and a water play area, in addition to the sports hall.

The new centre will also have a ‘clip and climb’ facility, four squash courts, a hydrotherapy suite and eight treatment rooms, two large studios, a spin studio and 200-station gym. There will also be a flexible space that could be used as a creche or soft play area, and cafe.

A full business case for the new leisure centre is due to be completed in early 2019.