COUNCIL officers have been urged to make sure they explore every possible avenue to address a shortage in sports hall provision for the southern parishes.

Members of Winchester City Council's health and environment policy committee admitted many of the local authority's upcoming projects are focused on the central Winchester area.

Councillor Caroline Horrill said the council needed to make sure "we have not left any stone unturned" in delivering improved facilities.

The committee discussed the future of the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Whiteley and potential options to build a new four-court sports hall.

As previously reported, the options for the Whiteley Way facility included closing it and disposing of the building, tendering for a short-term five-year provider contract, a longer 10 to 15-year tender or allowing Whitely Town Council to takeover the management of the facility.

Andy Hickman, WCC's head of programme, said leisure facilities will be included as part of a new school being built at North Whiteley, with this currently planned to open in 2024.

However, this is based on build rates in the major development and councillors voiced fears about relying on this site to cater for the southern parishes.

Councillor Horrill, member for Wonston & Micheldever, said: "This is a very important project because we saw earlier this week the first pass of the council plan and many of the projects focused on Winchester the city and there were limited projects for the broader district.

"This project merits our attention as council. We do know that the hall at Meadowside is well used currently and we have a need for further hall provision. We also need to recognise there is a social and community aspect to this facility, with the promise of some of the other facilities quite a long way down the line and we are not in control of the delivery of those.

"My push back to the officers is could we look again to ensure we have not left any stones unturned and actually look to deliver this project in the southern parishes, maybe with the support of partner's investment, not just for us to do it ourselves necessarily, given the importance of it."

Mr Hickman said none of the options outlined in a committee report are currently financially viable to the council.

Councillor Paula Ferguson said she was concerned the environmental impact of any of the options had not been considered at the current stage, while Cllr Caroline Brook highlighted travel issues in relation to a focus on North Whiteley.

"It takes me from the southern parishes, from Denmead, longer, depending on traffic, to get to North Whiteley than it does to central Winchester, so that does not serve the southern parishes as was the point of the four-court sports hall," said Cllr Brook.

"North Whiteley, for me, is not a solution for southern parishes as a whole."

She favoured an option for a hall in Wickham or Swanmore to provide the "desperately needed" facility.

Cabinet member for sport, leisure and communities, Cllr Malcolm Prince, said: "It is a complex project. In many ways it is a lot smaller than Bar End but equally as complex.

"Let's go forward, do our work, take these comments into consideration and come up with further proposals as we progress through the timescale."

Officers will take the feedback from the meeting on board and present an updated report to cabinet in December.