CYCLING campaigners have criticised plans aimed at connecting the planned leisure centre with the rest of Winchester.

The city council’s leisure committee heard last month that the new Bar End facility would be connected to the rest of the city via paths and cycle routes.

A council spokesman said: “One of the opportunities of the Bar End site is the proximity to National Cycle Network 23, a route that connects to Winchester City Centre in the north and the Viaduct Way to the south. A dedicated route is being planned that connects the sport and leisure centre to the network, delivering an improved, safer and direct route.”

But now Sue Coles, Winchester CTC (Cycle Touring Club) secretary, has criticised the details of the plan, arguing that cyclists “need high-quality cycle routes to the new sports and leisure park at Bar End from all parts of Winchester. The routes should be direct, convenient and safe and should form an integrated network”.

Ms Coles said: “We welcome the provision of a link from the National Cycle Network 23 (Viaduct Way). However it ends at the new roundabout on Bar End Road and no cycle crossing is provided... This is a serious omission.

“The concept diagram in the design framework proposes a route to the South Downs Way but the more detailed map classes this as a pedestrian route and its only access is the green pedestrian corridor linking both sides of the park.

“The routes for pedestrians and cyclists within the park do not have sealed surfaces and it is not clear that they are all accessible to cyclists. They are also indirect with too many right-angles, this will tempt pedestrians and cyclists to take short cutsand so create muddy desire lines.”

Ms Coles’ criticisms include a lack of access via Milland Road and “no reference to the roadway used by buses and cyclists on the former railway from Chesil St to Bar End”.

Ms Coles added: “Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council are currently conducting a Movement Study and it is crucial that access to the site for both cyclists and pedestrians is an integral part of the outcome of this study. We have yet to see evidence of this.

“Winchester CTC and Cycle Winchester would welcome an opportunity to discuss detailed cycle access to the site. What is needed is an audit of how cyclists from various part of Winchester would access the new park. Otherwise, the new venue will be a car-dominated facility and so cause additional congestion and pollution.”

As previously reported, the idea of improving cycle routes in the city was welcomed by Heather Evans, founder of Bespoke Biking, who said: “The whole idea of encouraging people to cycle just makes so much sense to me. We have problems with traffic, with pollution, with families not getting enough exercise, and cycling can help to solve all of those.”