AROUND 2,500 people have signed a petition calling for a lido in Winchester 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 around 500 signatures in the last seven days.

The petition was due to be presented at the next Council meeting on November 3 but that has been postponed and the petition will be open until November 30.

It 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 has this year opened a £40m sport and leisure centre at Bar End with a 50-metre pool but the Lido campaigners says outdoor swimming offers additional benefits including the positive impact on mental health. Lidos are increasingly popular nationwide with pools at Lymington, Hilsea and Aldershot.

The council is expected to publish its plans for the River Park Leisure Centre and North Walls park this autumn.

The petition, which is on the council website, states: “We the undersigned petition the council to support the creation of a lido as part of either the North Walls Park Improvement or the redevelopment of the old leisure centre. Winchester has a long history of outdoor swimming which has been lost over the years with the closure of the lido on Worthy Road and the river swimming pool in the water meadows. We would like the council to support its revival.

“Lockdown has created a resurgence in outdoor sports and there is a great demand for outdoor swimming.”

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

“There are many reasons why having a lido in Winchester would be great for our city.

“Firstly, swimming outside is a lot of fun and a lido would be a draw for people to come to Winchester.

“Secondly, outdoor swimming has been shown to have many positive benefits for physical and mental health and wellbeing - particularly important given the social impact of Covid.

“Thirdly, outdoor swimming is good for increasing rates of physical activity in the community. A report carried out by the Outdoor Swimmer Magazine in 2020 found it attracts more women than men - the number of women swimming outdoors rose from 50% in 2017 to 65% in 2020. This is important as women overall are less likely to engage in sport. It would also provide a venue for young people to exercise and socialise.

“Fourthly, swimming outdoors runs a lower risk of Covid transmission than swimming inside.

The campaigners say the River Park, due to its proximity to town and residential areas would be a perfect place for the Lido. It could be created inexpensively with simple outdoor shelters and changing facilities as they have done in places such as Abbey Meadows Lido in Abingdon or Petersfield. It could also house the cafe that is called for in the consultations.