CAMPAIGNERS aiming for a lido in Winchester say they are undaunted by major plans unveiled for the River Park Leisure Centre site.

Last week multi-million-pound plans were unveiled for the council-owned facility in Gordon Road. Winchester City Council revealed that it had been working with the University of Southampton, which runs the Winchester School of Art, on a scheme for a revived campus.

The announcement put a stop to popular plans for lido on the site after a petition gained close to 3,000 signatures – both online and on paper – calling for the facility.

Lido campaigners say that the university scheme is not proving popular, with comments on social media concerned about public access, about increasing numbers of students and pressure on housing, and about a lack of transparency and democracy in the decision-making process.

As the campaign continues, it now has a new supporter, Tim Farron, former Lib Dem leader and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

In a message, Mr Farron said: “Lidos are fantastic community spaces with amazing benefits for people’s physical and mental health.

“In the beautiful coastal town of Grange-over-Sands in my own constituency, there is currently a group of local residents who are working tirelessly alongside the local council to try and restore the Lido there.

“I wish you every success in Winchester in your campaign.”

Lucy Taylor, who set up the Winchester petition to the council, said: “Up and down the country there are tens if not hundreds of lidos that were built mostly in the 1920s and 30s, that were closed by local authorities as they built new enclosed pools in the 1970s, like the one at Riverpark, that are reopening as people realise the pleasures and benefits of outdoor swimming.

“The Grange Lido was closed in 1993 and was nearly demolished but finally local pressure meant the council opted for restoration and reuse. The public mood is undeniable: people of all ages and types want to see a return to a different sort of leisure activity.”

Fellow campaigner Paul Brodrick added: “A high proportion of lidos are community run, but they all need the support of the local council to function. In Hull, a far poorer city than Winchester, a lido that was closed 25 years ago is being restored by the council as part of post-pandemic improvements. Open-air swimming is also a very healthy response to the climate crisis for all ages. We have seen from connecting with other lidos around the country that they become an important and central place in the local community.”

Campaigners have also argued the council’s statement that the lido would cost £10million to build, and instead they say it would be in region of £4-7million.

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