SUPPORT is growing for a lido in Winchester city centre on the site of the River Park Leisure Centre.

A petition urging Winchester City Council to support the creation of the outdoor swimming pool garnered more than 1,000 signatures in its first two weeks.

The campaign has been launched by the newly formed Winchester Lido group in response to repeated calls over the years for an outdoor swimming venue.

The city council’s December 2020 Walking Survey on North Walls Park suggested the possibility of a lido, and the North Walls Consultation Feedback in 2019 showed the strongest support (over 70 per cent) for outdoor swimming.

The council 2021 consultation on the North Walls Park Plan noted that ‘the most popular suggestion for other outdoor rooms was for a lido’.

The council is expected to publish its plans for the leisure centre and park this autumn.

After many years of closures lidos have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years with ones at Lymington and Hilsea in Portsmouth.

Winchester used to be home to a river swimming pool off Garnier Road in St Cross and a lido on Worthy Road. Both closed in the 1970s when the River Park Leisure Centre opened.

Campaigners say demand for outdoor swimming across the UK has increased by 1.5 to three times, according to estimates from Outdoor Swimmer’s Trends Report in February this year. In 2019, Swim England estimated that 7.5m people in the UK swam outdoors, with women making up more than half those who take to our rivers, lakes and lidos.

Campaign supporter Paul Brodrick said: “Outdoor swimming can be one of the most exhilarating things to do. The coolness of the water can leave you physically and emotionally reinvigorated and with a strong sense of well-being.

“Outdoor swimming the sea, in a lake or at a lido, with friends, family or competitively can be one of the most enjoyable of activities.”

Lucy Taylor, who started the petition, said: "Swimming outside is life affirming. Over the years it has helped me through the high and lows of life. Lido’s create an amazing community and Winchester would be a better place for one."

She is the founder of Make Work Play which says: "We are on a mission to harness the power of play to create happy, healthy, collaborative teams. Because we believe it’s easier to get the hard work done when you’re having fun."

Paul Davies said: “Open water swimming has been a part of Winchester life since the Regency era when people started to appreciate the health benefits of our natural world. There were once a few places known as swimming spots on the River Itchen which are now on private land or have silted up. Winchester ought to resurrect its outdoor swimming heritage with the creation of a lido at River Park. Imagine what such a place will bring to the city and the joy it will create in young and old.

“Outdoor swimming offers a great boost to one’s immune system and mental health as the cold water eases stresses and anxieties away. A fitter, healthier and happier Winchester will be the outcome of a lido.”

Emily Holden, of Fuflood, said: “A lido in Winchester would be such an important addition to the community. It would connect people, not only to one another, but also to nature and the various physical and mental health benefits associated with outdoor swimming.”

The petition runs until the end of this month and will be presented to the council on November 3 at a full council meeting.

Anyone wanting to sign the petition or find out more can visit

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