SIR: I welcome the news that Winchester City Council proposes to reopen the River Park Leisure Centre and to replace Places for People as operator with Everyone Active. This is another great step on the way to our wonderful new sports and leisure centre opening next year.

But there are important questions which remain unanswered.

First, I do wonder why it is that the city council couldn’t get this centre or Meadowside open any earlier, at least in part. For example, it would be great to get the swimming pool open in August given that the school holidays are upon us. Can this be done?

Secondly, Everyone Active are being given an open-ended underwrite by the council in relation to their costs. This at a time when we are told that the council’s finances are challenged. If there is another lockdown, this unlimited underwrite has the potential to be a disaster. What steps are the council taking to work out and limit that risk?

Finally, it is proposed that the council make a large compensation payment to Places for People, the current operator. It is arguable that no compensation is payable at all under the terms of the original operator’s contract. Also, there are ongoing questions as to whether Places for People have paid all that is due to the council, and there is a potential ongoing liability for breaches of contract by them. Can these issues be offset against any payments to them, if the council is legally required to make such payments? At the very least, the council must preserve its rights to enforce for past breaches.

In rushing to replace them as operator, Places for People must not be rewarded for any past failures nor must they be allowed to escape liability for what the council is due.

Cllr Susan Cook,

Colden Common & Twyford Ward,

Winchester City Council,

Hewlett Close,


SIR: Winchester City Council are to re-open the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Whiteley on September 1. Other leisure centres in the area have already started to re-open, why is taking so long for the council to get this back up and running?

One reason may be their decision to replace Places for People as operator with Everyone Active. This makes sense in Winchester, where Everyone Active will be running the new centre.

However, it is much more of a concern in Whiteley. Here the concession for operator is to be retendered, possibly as early as September. Any change of operator has the potential for disruption and it hardly seems worth it for such a short period of time.

What’s more, Everyone Active already have a centre nearby - in Fareham, just over the motorway. Is it wise to give them access to all trading information and member details for a rival centre? As well as an inside track on the retendering? And a platform to lure members over to Fareham if they decide its not worth bidding or they are unsuccessful?

Surely it’s better to avoid the disruption and these risks by keeping Places for People in position here until the retendering is complete? That way, Meadowside can be re-opened much more quickly, for the benefit of the residents of Whiteley?

Otherwise, I fear the interests of people out in the wider Winchester district are to be sacrificed again for the benefit of the residents of the city itself.

Hugh Lumby,

City councillor,

Upper Meon Valley ward,

High Street,