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Council withdraws decision to lease former leisure centre site to university after legal challenge threat

Winchester City Council has rescinded a decision to lease a former leisure centre site to the University of Southampton after receiving a pre-action letter from a local pressure group.

The Friends of River Park said the council should have advertised its intention to dispose of any parts of the site which are open space under s.123(2A), Local Government Act 1972.

A report by cabinet member for housing and asset management Kelsie Learney recommended “the decision is withdrawn and that the appropriate publicity that has been placed in both the Hampshire Chronicle and the Mid Hampshire Observer is approved”.

The report said the council has received a pre-action protocol that “sets out that this step [of advertising] should have been taken before the decision was made”.

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It went on to say the council “receives many threats of and actual pre-action protocol letters as this is a standard legal tool, the aim of which is to settle a dispute without recourse to legal proceedings.

“On this occasion, the matters raised by the pre-action protocol letter have merit with respect to part of the site, the council can readily resolve the dispute and has taken steps to do so.”

The Friends of River Park last month threatened to take Winchester to judicial review over what the group said were deficiencies in the consultation process over future use of the former leisure centre site, which is adjacent to the university’s Winchester School of Art site and could be used to expand the campus.

Mark Smulian

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