Joint decision to end Basingstoke Leisure Park development agreement
Signed in 2018, the agreement would have seen £300 million of private investment in the council-owned park to provide a new Aquadrome and new leisure facilities, alongside a designer outlet centre.
However, these proposals were significantly delayed by a legal challenge over procurement, successfully overcome in June 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted on the business climate in the UK, especially in the leisure and retail sectors, with a corresponding impact on property development within those sectors.
As things have changed so significantly since the proposals were first developed, the council and NewRiver have jointly reviewed the proposals and agreed that they are no longer viable or appropriate in the post-COVID world.
The borough council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Major Projects Cllr John Izett said: “Dissolving this partnership is very disappointing as the development agreement offered the borough and our residents the prospect of extensive private investment to comprehensively regenerate the leisure park, bringing the latest leisure attractions, a designer outlet centre and a new Aquadrome, with accompanying jobs.
“But we recognise that these plans have been disrupted by significant events, firstly the legal challenge over procurement, successfully overcome, and subsequently the profound impact of COVID-19 on the leisure and retail sectors.
“The joint decision to end the development agreement allows us to get on with the work needed to put together new plans for our leisure park that are suitable and deliverable in a post-COVID world. It will be important to consult with councillors, other stakeholders and our residents on the best way forward. Even in this changed environment, our leisure park offers huge potential that by working together can be realised in a new plan.”
Jamie Whitfield, Development Director at NewRiver, said: “We can confirm that NewRiver is withdrawing as the council’s development partner to regenerate Basingstoke Leisure Park, mutually bringing the development agreement to an end.
“When we signed the agreement in March 2018, it was against a different backdrop to now. Our plans were impacted by two separate events, both outside either party’s control. Firstly, the legal challenge concerning the council’s procurement of its development partner which went to The Court of Appeal, but whilst successfully overcome, did cause a 22-month delay. Secondly, the global pandemic which greatly impacted both the leisure and retail sectors. Regrettably, these events overlapped, leaving the delivery of the proposed plans commercially unviable.”
The end of the development agreement allows the council to consider the most appropriate leisure offer for Basingstoke alongside the evolving town centre strategy and the local plan update. Suitable options for a replacement of The Aquadrome, which is the council’s facility, and the redevelopment of the leisure park are now being explored.
Proposals will be developed over the course of the next few months, consulting with councillors, existing leisure park operators, leisure park users, residents and specialists in the leisure industry.