Emma Back (SALT) and Rachel Remnant (on behalf of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust) spoke during public participation as summarised briefly below.
Emma Back (SALT)
Noted the investment in engaging consultants to develop ideas to improve the open space around the old leisure centre site and emphasised the importance of both formal recreational activity and informal play going forward. She stated that at present it was not possible to tell in the masterplan if the long term deficit of multi-use games areas (MUGAs) access would be addressed, stressed their importance and need for provision at North Walls and asked that this be reviewed for inclusion. In addition, Ms Back suggested that the use of CIL funding for MUGA provision be explored further going forward.
Rachel Remnant (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)
Emphasised that nature needed to be at the heart of Council decisions and welcomed that Park Plan’s ideas and the inclusion of meadow patches, paddling areas and enhancements to the river channels. However, she considered that the Council’s proposals could raise expectations and would have a negative impact on nature and wildlife habitats. In addition, she made reference to the impact on the SSSI zone, flood risks and suggested changes to areas of the plan to alleviate risk and make nature a priority.
The Open Spaces Officer introduced the report which set out the final version of the Park Plan for North Walls Recreation Ground which was recommended to the Forum for adoption and provided the masterplan for the future of the site to enable to progression of the project to the next phase and highlighted the key changes to the Park Plan made since it was considered at the last meeting.
She responded to points raised by Ms Back during public participation, including confirming that the Council was keen to support informal play and that survey feedback had failed to identify MUGAs as a high priority for the site. However, it was recognised that there was a need for MUGA provision and these were being delivered where possible. It was emphasised that the Council needed to balance the most sought after facilities in the limited area available at North Walls to accommodate the preferences of the majority favoured for the site, which included the café and toilet facilities.
The Natural Environment and Recreation Manager and Open Spaces Officer responded to a number of detailed questions from Members, including concerns regarding a reduced survey response to capture feedback from teenagers and young people on the use MUGAs, open engagement with groups, the demographic response of the consultation process, the need to create adequate provision for MUGAs and structured access to the river for outdoor swimming and the management of these activities whilst ensuring the protection of the nature reserve, the establishment of a park user group with key stakeholders, the scope of the terms of reference, river water quality for wild swimming and exploring river access options at Winchester College.
During debate, the Forum welcomed and commended the North Walls Park Plan and thanked officers for their dedicated work in the preparation of the plan and the detailed analysis included within it.
1. That the Park Plan, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report, be adopted; and
2. That the development of the proposals to the implementation stage including consideration of funding options be authorised.