PLANS for a new £25 million leisure centre in Hampshire have been unveiled.

Civic bosses want to spend the cash replacing the River Park centre in Winchester.

They are proposing to build a bigger facility on the playing field next to the existing centre to meet the needs of a growing population.

It would mean the loss of a cricket pitch and green open space but it would be a larger complex with a footprint of about 8,000 sq m compared to the existing 4,750 sq m.

During building work, estimated to take at least two years, the current centre, which needs major repairs, would remain open.

Once building work is finished, the old building will be bulldozed to make way for a proposed 300-space car park, more than twice the size of the existing one.

Cabinet chiefs yesterday approved spending £100,000 on technical reports over the next three months, including water table reports, drainage, transport, and ecology surveys.

But in a blow for Penguins Swimming Club and Fit for the Future, an umbrella group of sports clubs, the council is not currently proposing to build a 50-metre pool.

Instead proposed new facilities include a 25-metre, ten-lane, pool with a 20-metre teaching pool, hydrotherapy and rehabilitation pool.

A report considered by Cabinet yesterday said although a 50-metre pool could be sub-divided, it could only be justified if there was extensive use of its full length.

Officers said a 50-metre pool would only be of benefit to “a relatively small number of competitive swimmers” and demand was “home-grown” rather than at a regional or national level.

But Sue Falconer, chairman of Penguins Swimming Club, said: “We have 900 members in our club and a waiting list of 200 – that is not a small number.”

Mrs Falconer said a bigger pool would benefit the wider community.

She said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build the right thing for the city. A ten-lane, 25-metre pool is a poor compromise.”

Meanwhile discussions will continue over whether the new centre should include a dedicated gymnastics hall.

Other proposed new facilities include a main hall with eight to ten courts, 150 to 180 station fitness centre, four dance studios, four squash courts, cafe, bar, reception and children’s play area.

In addition, there would be artificial grass pitches for five-a-side football, separate wet and dry dressing rooms and up to six tennis courts.

The council is inviting sports clubs and other organisations and individuals who use the centre to a public meeting in the Guildhall on September 26, starting at 7.30pm, to discuss the proposals.