LAND at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre could be sold for housing, the Daily Echo can reveal.

The organisation which manages the centre says selling “parcels of land” at the site could fund improvements to sports facilities.

But the proposal has proven controversial with residents and councillors opposing the move amid fears it could lead to further development on the site in the future.

Many of the facilities at the sports centre are dilapidated and crumbling and earlier this year the Daily Echo reported on Southampton Athletics Club’s campaign to improve the facilities at the centre, which was backed by Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter Darren Campbell.

Consultants Capita, working on behalf of the council, are currently assessing the site and have estimated it will cost £1 million for a new clubhouse and stand at the athletics club – money that could be found through the sale of land.

In its response to the Bassett Neighbourhood Development Plan, a document being put together to plan where new houses could be built in the area, Sports Centre managers Active Nation suggest selling off land to fund improvements.

Managing director John Oxley said: “Whilst sympathetic to the emotions that can prevail in the development of open space, our organisation believes passionately that permitting the development of the facility, and including the sale of land parcels to support the funding of its development, should be considered.” Council leader Simon Letts told the Daily Echo there are no current proposals on the table to sell land and that no land currently accessible to the public would be sold off.

He said: “If we choose to dispose of land associated with the sports centre but not currently used for sport any proceeds will be invested in sport in the city.”

It is understood one site which could be sold is the former council nursery off Vermont Close, which is big enough to contain about a dozen homes, although no sites have been formally identified.

It is not the first time plans to build homes on Sports Centre land have surfaced with proposals considered by Labour and Liberal Democrat council leaders 12 years ago but eventually rejected.

However, there are concerns over the plans, with Conservative Bassett councillor Les Harris, who is coordinating the neighbourhood plan, saying: “We’ve said absolutely no.

“All the residents we have spoken to have said they don’t want anyone to touch the Sports Centre.

“It will set a precedent and affect the amenity of the centre.

If they are going to even contemplate it they will need a public inquiry so everybody can have their say because the Sports Centre belongs to the residents of Southampton.”

Richie Pearson, chairman of Southampton Athletics Club, said: “I think it should be considered, because something’s got to be done and if that’s the only way of doing it then I would support it.”

Coxford Putting People First councillor Don Thomas said: “I hope this is not so, we should in the same way as our forefathers never ever contemplate selling off any part of the Sports Centre.

“And to be very clear the surrounding green buffer is very much an integral part of what makes the Sports Centre the jewel in Southampton’s crown when it comes to our open spaces.”