Winchester Fit for the Future is a community project run by volunteers, under the auspices of the Winchester Sport Art and Leisure Trust. It brings together local sports clubs and stakeholder organisations in the Winchester area.
We are working to secure a lasting legacy from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Our efforts are focused on developing sustainable and accessible community sports facilities, as poor facilities are the major constraint to improving sports provision locally, particularly for children and young people.
Our priority has been to secure a new sports and leisure centre to serve the City of Winchester, its surrounding District and broader catchment. We have achieved this initial goal and a new centre – with a flexible 50m swimming pool – is under construction at Bar End.
Starting in 2011, we undertook detailed research and analysis, consulting national governing bodies for sport and local experts. We developed community proposals for a centre to expand participation in sport, support training, and host competitions and other events. Studio Four Architects helped us develop site plans and design concepts that reflect these proposals. A short video summarising the community proposals and a vision for Bar End can be found here.
Winchester was not well placed to draw on the legacy of London 2012, due to gaps in sports provision and an ageing public leisure facility that was too small. Many of our community sports clubs lacked a base, struggled to access existing facilities, and had long waiting lists as a result.
Watch a BBC South Today report from 2012, which outlined the key challenges we faced then and still face now!
Our research, and that of others, indicated the need for and the long-term viability of several core sports facilities in Winchester, including:
- a 50m community pool, with dividing boom(s) and variable depth
- a sports arena that can accommodate 3 competition standard netball/basketball courts
- a gymnastics and trampolining facility
- indoor facilities and spectator seating alongside the athletics track at Bar End
Partnership between local institutions is needed to deliver these new facilities and ensure they thrive over the long-term.
We submitted a petition to Winchester City Council on 7th November 2012. In total it gained 3434 signatures and was endorsed by 14 top athletes or high-profile members of the Winchester community. Since then, as Winchester City Council developed its own proposals, we gave extensive feedback on them (see examples here, here and here), gave evidence to the Council’s Informal Scrutiny Group on the issues, and made many statements to various Council committees. We also worked with local clubs and governing bodies to develop additional proposals for specific facilities – such as those for gymnastics and trampolining and indoor athletics – and we put forward "commitments to hire" certain types of facility. We even started some community fundraising, including through our 2012 Hours and SOS Save Our Sports campaigns.
Unfortunately, this community effort has not resulted in a more comprehensive or "future proofed" facility mix at Bar End – in fact, in 2017, the Council's Cabinet opted to scale back the facility mix that was agreed by full Council in 2016; even then, the cost estimates rose still further. The estimated cost of the new centre is around £43m – roughly twice the best estimate we received from affordable contractors.
Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council, and the University of Winchester are working together with the Pinder Trust to develop the new facilities at Bar End – but as things stand, of the above needs, only the 50m community pool will be delivered.
So, our work continues – to identify opportunities to improve existing facilities and develop new ones, for gymnastics, netball and basketball in particular. Our community sports facilities fund is being held in reserve for this purpose. We are also supporting the local boxing club as they work to find a new home in the city, and we have helped local charity The Pavilion Project in their efforts to secure a new high quality community pavilion for the North Walls Recreation Ground. We will support any efforts to improve the athletics facilities and synthetic turf pitches at the Bar End sports stadium, as and when these projects are progressed by the University of Winchester and/or others.
In addition to our work on facilities, the Winchester Fit for the Future project has worked to secure a sustainable legacy from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in other ways, for example by compiling a Guide to Winchester’s Community Sports Clubs to give local people a taste of what’s on offer locally. There are MANY great community sports clubs and other organisations in and around our City, providing low-cost and sometimes free provision for children, young people and adults. Our community sports sector needs support, now more than ever.