15 January 2018

Basingstoke Leisure Park transformation moves a step closer

A £300 million plan to transform Basingstoke Leisure Park has moved a step closer after details of how this ground-breaking development will be delivered were agreed.

Leisure attractions would almost double under the proposals for the 60 acre park, near the town centre, owned by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

This exciting project would create over 2,000 jobs and there are likely to be numerous career and training opportunities for younger people, as the leisure industry tends to have a younger employee profile.

Complex negotiations between the council and proposed development partner NewRiver REIT Plc about the major project have now been completed and the next stage will be signing a contract.

In 2016, the Cabinet agreed the high-level principles for NewRiver to lease the council’s land for the complete transformation of the ageing park. Now the details of how the development will happen, subject to planning approval, have been agreed and Cabinet Member for Finance, Service Delivery and Improvement Cllr Robert Tate has issued a report confirming that this agreement meets the original terms approved by Cabinet.

Cllr Tate’s report recommends that legal signing goes ahead. Work would then move forward on drawing up a planning application including discussions with potential occupiers to secure new attractions for Basingstoke, detailed traffic studies and wider technical work and extensive community engagement to help shape the proposals.

Outline plans will see the existing leisure park dramatically enhanced, creating 500,000 sq ft of leisure facilities, almost double that of the existing leisure park, introducing exciting new leisure experiences for families together with high-adrenaline pursuits and state-of-the-art virtual reality e-sports. The leisure facilities will be greatly improved including a new £23 million Aquadrome, which the council will run as part of the park, without public investment to build it. The precise concepts for the transformed leisure park will be the subject of extensive community consultation and subject to planning consent.

Plans also include a new 200,000 sq ft upmarket designer outlet village, in addition to the 500,000 sq ft of leisure facilities, recognising the growing trend of blending retail and leisure to enhance the overall visitor experience. Focusing on designer brands at affordable prices, this would complement the retail offer in the nearby town centre, providing a different type of product and experience.

A revitalised leisure park with an attractive new retail offer will strengthen Basingstoke’s appeal to a much wider catchment area, keeping the spending in the town from shoppers and visitors who now leave to shop or enjoy leisure facilities elsewhere.

The Milestones Museum would remain an important part of the leisure park, with NewRiver working closely with the museum to support the development of the exhibition and create links with educational programmes on Saunder’s Field. Proposals for Saunder’s Field could provide free outdoor space and activities while preserving biodiversity and flood alleviation.

Working with a developer on the comprehensive renewal of the leisure park was a proactive step taken by the council to avoid the alternative of dependence upon all operators at the park, including the council, being able and willing to invest millions in upgrading their existing facilities on a piecemeal basis.

Cllr Robert Tate said: “We want the people of the borough to have access to the best leisure facilities available and want to hear what the community would like from an expanded park. This is an exciting new project on a national scale. This £300 million development will mean a doubling of the leisure facilities at the park, with a lot of exciting new attractions coming to the town. A new designer village not currently available within 30 or 40 miles, would also be included.

“The funding for the development, including a new £23 million Aquadrome, will be provided at no cost to the council, and is all coming from the private sector with no public money invested. The existing Aquadrome will remain open during the construction phase.

“This will be a major destination of choice in the south of England contributing to the long-term vision of Basingstoke as a premier town in the region.”

This will be a complex, phased project, and will take time and careful planning to complete. Based on current estimates, it is anticipated that work would start on the new leisure park from 2025, subject to planning permission. Community input to help shape the proposals will follow the signing of the final legal agreements.

The development would bring significant benefits to the borough in terms of the increased rents and business rates, new jobs, a boost for the local construction industry and attract new income into the local economy.

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