THE city council has been urged that any plans by Southampton University for the River Park Leisure Centre site should go before all councillors.

The council announced last November that it was working with the university to expands its School of Art campus to include the redundant leisure centre site in Gordon Road.

As previously reported, the council has now admitted its unlawfulness in leasing the land without giving the public notice of the disposal.

Now, council chiefs have been asked whether it will commit to a public consultation this year regarding the university’s plans.

READ MORE HERE: City council explains public notice advert over River Park

Sam Feltham, who has started a petition calling for the council to pause the proposal, said: “Despite many reasonable requests from local residents to follow a proper public consultation process for River Park the council have charged ahead with the University of Southampton's proposal. With that in mind, will this administration and the University at least fully commit to an open and transparent public consultation for their proposal before the end of June 2022, that should include publishing anonymised data collected during that process for public analysis?”

Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for housing and asset management, replied: “The university has made public commitment to working collaboratively with the public while they develop their masterplan for the River Park site. These commitments were made at the public forum held on 1 November and when answering questions during the cabinet meeting of 23 November 2021. The council cannot prescribe what the university will publish as part of their strategic consultations, nor their timings as we have no remit to do so. However, the council expects the university to provide opportunity for the public to engage with, and comment on, their emerging aspirations for developing the land as part and parcel of bringing forward a masterplan for the site.”

Mr Feltham asked: “If the university do manage to come up with a plan in the next five years will the cabinet ensure that the plans will go to a full council vote before proceeding with those votes.”

But Cllr Learney told Mr Feltham that if a planning application is submitted “will be dealt with in a usual way and it would be for council and the planning committee at that time to decide on those kind of issues”.

Hampshire Chronicle: River Park Leisure Centre; now boarded up

She added: “In recent conversations with officers, the university have reaffirmed their commitment to being a good partner to not only the city council but local residents and they have indicated their intention to involve local people in moving their plans forward sooner rather than later.”

The councillor also encouraged Mr Feltham to look at the university’s draft strategy which indicates its “desire to co-design with local communities, authorities and partners to drive the social, environmental and economic benefits that are most vital to those local residents but also reaffirms their net zero ambitions”.

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Kimberley Barber