WINCHESTER civic chiefs gave the public the chance to tell them their views on the future of Norths Walls Recreation Ground.

The park is next to the River Park Leisure Centre which is due for demolition once the new centre opens at Bar End in January 2021.

More than 800 people turned up at a public engagement event at the park on March 22 and 23.

Most users come from the surrounding district and walk to the park and use it for walking and they greatly value the open space and the sports facilities. They dislike the level of drinking and drug taking, the town forum heard.

Suggested improvements include a path around the perimeter, an outdoor gym, and the retention of a cafe and toilets. Organisers of the parkrun are keen for the path, said Susan Croker, who is head of landscape and open spaces.

Although the indoor 25m pool will be demolished many people would like to see a new open air pool and ‘splash park’ on the site.

Others would like to see cultural facilities or the retention of a gym.

Ms Croker said it was clear the park is a vitally important open space helping people’s health and well-being.

The consultation has given the council a clearer vision to make sure any changes did not end up losing users.

She said there very simple improvements that could be made such as litter picking and painting park benches.

The council is aware of the need to replace the cricket pavilion - local people’s Pavilion Project is fund-raising to build a multi-use space for use throughout the year and not just the summer.

Cllr Jamie Scott told the forum: “It is a fascinating area to bring people together. It is a gem that we need to protect and enhance.”

The city council dropped plans to extend the River Park Leisure Centre onto the park in 2012-13 following a public campaign.