WINCHESTER civic chiefs are considering the future of the city’s biggest park.

The Town Forum agreed to develop a park plan to improve the 30-acre North Walls Recreation Ground. The council has secured £19,400 from the Government to identify park improvements.

The River Park Leisure Centre (RPLC), next to the open space, is due to close in early 2021 and may be demolished, the forum heard.

A decision on whether to board it up or knock it down straight away has yet to be made.

An idea to retain the cafe and toilets from the RPLC has been rejected as unfeasible, Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member, told the forum. But temporary toilets will be provided in the short-term, she said.

The artificial turf pitches and the tennis courts will be retained and their management transferred from the centre to the city council.

A report to the forum said: “North Walls is a vital green space in the centre of Winchester which is greatly valued by local people and provides significant health and wellbeing benefits as well as sporting opportunities.

“The Park Plan will identify improvements for improving this vital asset and broadening its accessibility as well as identifying opportunities for environmental enhancements.”

The park is important for formal sport such as cricket and rugby, with a new cricket pavilion due this year or next; the venue for parkruns; site of annual events such as the bonfire and fireworks display; Hat Fair, the Cheese and Chilli festival; as well as a skate park, play area and indoor and outdoor bowls.

Another group of councillors is looking at the future of the leisure centre site and that of the car park.

Improvements to the park could be delayed by a decision on the future of RPLC, the report said.