WINCHESTER City Council has said that the land which the city's redundant leisure centre sits on is "not deemed to be open public space".

As previously reported, Winchester City Council conceded that it should have given the public notice of plans to hand over the publicly owned River Park Leisure Centre (RPLC) site to the University of Southampton, in order for objections to be considered.

The revelation followed campaign group Friends of River Park telling the council that it was seeking a judicial review over the lease.

The Chronicle reported the issue and was told by the authority that a notice had been published in this paper regarding the RPLC site. 

However, confusion was raised as the only notice published in both the Chronicle and on the council’s own notices section on its website is regarding the Riverside Bowls Club and skate park, both of which neighbour the RPLC site.

READ MORE: Winchester City Council admits River Park Leisure Centre lease was unlawful

The notice reads that the council is “proposing to enter into an agreement to grant a lease for a term of 150 years” to the university, adding: “The lease will contain terms requiring the university to continue the current use of the land unless an equivalent alternative facility is provided.”

The council was asked to clarify when a notice would be published regarding the RPLC site.

The council has now responded to say that it has to advertise the public open space, but the land that leisure centre sits on is "not deemed to be public open space", which means it does not need to publish a notice regarding this portion of land.

The public have until the February 4 to comment on the current disposal notice, and the Friends of River Park hope that any objections will deter the council from pressing ahead with its plans.

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Conservative group leader on the city council, Cllr Caroline Horrill said: “The decision by the Liberal administration to not consult with councillors or residents before agreeing a deal with the University of Southampton for River Park is a dereliction of their duty, and completely undermines local democracy.

“This also includes the legal requirement to provide the public notice regarding the land.

“It is an indicator of how far they are removed from the mood of residents.

“It also indicates a complete lack of transparency and is a shocking disregard for the opinion of residents and those legitimately elected to represent wards across the district.”

The plan to lease the RPLC site to the university was announced last November to allow the education provider to expand its School of Art campus. Winchester residents aired frustration about the level of public consultation.

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Kimberley Barber