SIR: It’s almost hard to believe that even the present administration at Winchester City Council genuinely believe their ‘spin’ that the present vision for River Park in any way benefits the people of Winchester?

Judith Martin’s letter in last week’s Chronicle highlighted the complete lack of information from the present ‘partners and stakeholders’, save for the glib tag-line of, ‘a bit of Southampton in Winchester’ which hardly reflects the blatant mono-culture experience on offer at the art college in recent years - one that is exclusive, unwelcoming and makes little, if any attempt, to embrace and enrich the art and cultural experience of the community it is ‘nominally’ based in.

Almost 30 years ago I was unfortunate/misguided enough to study for an MA at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College which, even then, hid its pitiful offering behind a ‘green-wash’ of offering a truly ‘multicultural experience’. In ‘reality’, it was nothing more than a ‘cash cow’ for the university, offering nothing in the way of language support for the overseas students, resulting in an appalling ‘dumbing down’ of any academic standards, and the opportunity for the student body to creatively share.

We are currently being mis-sold a pup, dressed up in the tedious ‘selling off the family silver’ rhetoric of ‘stakeholders and partners’. No doubt the present (tuition fee enabling) administration at WCC will be tasking one of their usual spokesmen (Cllr Tod?) to ‘reframe the ‘benefits’ of this proposal - public transport and booking access to the new ‘out of town’ leisure centre currently leaps to mind…

David Rowe,

Falcon View,

Badger Farm,


SIR: I was very pleased to read in the last two editions of the Chronicle that the city council has arranged with the University of Southampton to bring us a building in River Park near the School of Art that will have spaces for performances, theatre, etc.that we can all go to and use.

It is bound to enhance the area. It should bring Winchester a boost in visitors and tourists and can’t fail to be good for the shops and restaurants and pubs in the city. The proposals for the River Park also sound very promising. I did not understand why your correspondent in this week’s Chronicle did not welcome the development. In my view we could hardly have found anything more benign for the city.

Dale Thomson,

Compton Road,


SIR: Your report of the continuing campaign for a lido on the site of the old leisure centre and Judith Martin’s letter on the same subject (both November 11) make me wonder whether you and Judith watched the same Teams presentation of the Council’s proposals as I did.

It is not “a scheme for an expanded campus” for Southampton University, as you report. And it is not a process “whose terms are far from clear, but will lead to a 150-year lease”, as claimed by Judith.

The Council’s intention is quite clear. It is to contract the University for an initial five years to conduct thorough public consultation, and on the basis of that to bring forward detailed proposals for, and I quote verbatim, a “multi-disciplinary cultural facility” which would contain, among other things to be decided in the course of the consultation, a “flexible performance space”. In answer to a question from a member of the public, Professor Lynch, Head of the School of Art, said that it would be working closely with Winchester University in doing this.

Only if and when those detailed proposals are adopted will the university be offered a 150-year lease to build and operate the facility.

It must surely be obvious that a facility of this kind will benefit far more people in and around Winchester than the limited number who enjoy year-round open-air swimming.

And it should not be forgotten that universities can access funding that is not available to local authorities – witness the amount of new building that Southampton University has commissioned in recent years on its main campus, and that Winchester University has commissioned in Winnall, off the Andover Road and in Romsey Road.

I have never been shy of criticising Winchester City Council in the past, but on this occasion I believe that they have shown far-sighted imagination and taken a decision that promises to provide Winchester with a really valuable asset.

Tim Fell,

Bereweeke Avenue,


SIR: This is a call to pause negotiations on River Park and conduct a well-advertised six-month public consultation.

It was my understanding that at this stage of development, proposals for River Park were still open. However, having attended the online River Park update on 1st November, I was aghast at how far negotiations with the University of Southampton had gone. From what I observed, it certainly seems like the decision to sell it to them has already been made. Being objective, I can see the appeal of partnering with the university but I fear that without a robust public consultation we will miss out on an opportunity to gather great ideas from the community and properly explore well supported proposals such as a lido.

If the city council truly wants to listen and represent the people, I urge them to pause negotiations with the University of Southampton whilst they genuinely consider other proposals from the community with a well advertised six-month public consultation.

After that, if the proposal with the university turns out to be the best one then nothing has been lost but it makes sense that local residents should be given the opportunity to submit our ideas with plenty of time to put proposals together.

In hope that common sense prevails.

Sam Feltham,

Longfield Road,