A REVIEW into Winchester’s major projects is expected to be concluded within the next few weeks, the council leader has said.

Cllr Lucille Thompson took over the role when the Liberal Democrats seized control of the city council in May’s local elections.

Following their success, the party announced a review of the authority’s major schemes that had previously been managed by the previous Conservative administration.

It comes after Cllr Malcolm Prince, cabinet member for sport, leisure and communities, said last week there would be no major changes to the new £38m leisure centre.

He said: “We have taken the time to review the plans for the sport and leisure park and there will be no major changes to the building which would result in the project being delayed.

“However, we will be focussing on the internal layout to ensure the facilities meet the needs of all users.”

Now Cllr Thompson has confirmed the centre’s sports hall will not be increased from eight courts in size to 12, a central criticism levelled by the Lib Dems before the election.

She said because of the financial cost of making the changes now contracts have been signed and construction has begun on the Bar End facility, it is not possible to make the change.

However, Cllr Thompson said they were looking a ways to improve sustainability and the wider park, and reduce the facility’s carbon footprint.

Responding to the news, Winchester Sport, Art and Leisure Trust (SALT), whose chief executive Emma Back was one of the more vocal critics of the proposals, said: “We understand the new council administration would have liked a bigger sports hall at Bar End, and so would we – but it seems it’s now too late to make this change affordably, which is a shame.

Hampshire Chronicle:

“The new facility will be great for swimming and other aquatic activities, but there’s no doubt it’s a missed opportunity in other respects. The architect focused on form over function, and the result is a building that’s far more expensive than it needed to be.

“Hopefully, some internal changes can still be made so the facilities are easier to use. We look forward to seeing the results of the project review.”

Turning to the other major projects, Cllr Thompson said the Lib Dem administration was looking to put their footprint on the Silver Hill 2 project, now officially known as Saxon Gate, while praising the consultation under the Conservatives that led to its current state.

The scheme aims to eventually regenerate a large portion of the city centre between Friarsgate and The Broadway.

Meanwhile, she described the Station Approach scheme, which aims to regenerate the area around the railway station, as a “much improved project” compared to the original attempt which collapsed due to criticism as to its size.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Cllr Thompson said that part of the review was continuing, and hoped to have it complete in “the next two or three weeks”.