CIVIC chiefs have finally approved Winchester’s new sport and leisure centre.

City councillors backed the £38million scheme at full Council last night.

The facilities, featuring a 50-metre pool and eight-court sports hall, will be managed by Everyone Active and the construction will be by Willmott Dixon.

Cllr Caroline Horrill, Leader of Winchester City Council, said: “The development of the Winchester Sport and Leisure Centre will bring a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility to Winchester.

“This is great news for our residents who have been working closely with us throughout. So many people are looking forward to these exciting plans becoming a reality. We are delighted that the decision taken by Council means the final green light for the project.

“We have worked so hard to keep this project on track and are pleased construction can now start on site.”

Liberal Democrat critics said the centre's facilities are too limited for the projected increase in population of the district over the next 30 ears. They called for a 12-court sports hall rather than eight, the same size as the current River Park Leisure Centre.

To celebrate works starting on site, a video has been released today by Winchester City Council.

Cllr Lisa Griffiths, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, said: “We are now able to start construction work on our new sports centre and are delighted to offer people the opportunity to take a virtual look around. They will be able to see the start-of-the-art facilities we have planned, including the 50m swimming pool and the hydrotherapy suite.

“The centre is set in parkland and designed to promote the feeling of health and relaxation. It will be a fantastic place for everyone to gather and enjoy.”

The centre will be run by Everyone Active, who have been named Swim England’s Operator of the Year for the last two years and run 150 facilities nationally.

The new facility will be developed with financial support from Hampshire County Council, the Pinder Trust, and Winchester University.

Clubs and teams have also been heavily involved in the plans. Mike Fisher, from Winchester Penguins swimming club, said: "We are excited about the pools included at the new centre. We look forward to making this our new home and the 50m pool will give us a unique opportunity to compete with the biggest swim programmes in the country and extend our community programme locally."

Construction at the Garrison Ground in Bar End will start later this month. The centre due to open in 2021.