CRITICISM of plans for Winchester’s new £38million leisure centre has been branded “baffling” by the councillor in charge of the scheme.

Cllr Lisa Griffiths said mitigation measures for the impact of the new facility in Bar End had already been agreed, and were supported by the various national governing bodies.

It comes after Sport England issued a “holding objection” against the scheme due to a lack of detail and concerns over certain aspects that have proved controversial with some residents and campaigners in Winchester.

Now Cllr Griffiths, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing and chairman of the leisure centre committee, has hit back, saying: “We have worked closely with Sport England for the past two years, as my earlier statement said.

“We have agreed mitigation with the matters raised and national governing bodies and Sport England support those plans. Further detail will be finalised during the current RIBA 4 phase.”

Cllr Griffiths added: “Some points made are factually incorrect – for instance that there is no first-floor viewing, there is a viewing gallery.

“The accessibility advisory group has been over the plans, many of whom are wheelchair users, and have expressed support for the design.

“As you will be aware the boxing club is in the process of being relocated. So this is all a little baffling!”

In addition, Cllr Griffith has written a letter to the Chronicle calling the response “appallingly inaccurate” and said it “should be withdrawn”.

You can read the letter in full here >>>

As previously reported, the national agency issued a nine-page critique including feedback from several other sporting bodies, with concerns ranging from a lack of detail over mitigation measures for the loss of a sports pitch, to the size of the sports hall and its glazing.

Some of the comments from Owen Neal, regional planning manager, included: “The Football Foundation and Hants County FA comment that they object to the proposal on the basis of the lack of detail about the required mitigation package to compensate for the loss of pitch provision.”

He added: “Daylight in sports halls is something that none of the indoor court sports support. It produces glare, solar gain, and impairs the ability of players to discriminate shuttles, balls and other team members in full hall games.”

Despite the holding objection, Sport England did concede an improvement on the current River Park Leisure Centre, and their was support from England Squash and Swim England.

The plans are due to go before a planning committee to seek approval next month.