Hopes of leisure centre at Kings Chase car park
PLANS for a new leisure centre in Kingswood are being taken forward as part of a major revamp of the town’s high street.
South Gloucestershire Council has approved a feasibility study into building a new leisure centre at the back of the Kings Chase shopping centre.
The decision was among moves signed off by the Conservative administration on December 13 to progress the £25million redevelopment of Kingswood High Street.
Plans include the pedestrianisation of part of Regent Street and the restoration of the Grade-I listed Whitfield Tabernacle. A new public park will be created from the cemetery of the Grade-II listed Masters Church, which sits beside the tabernacle and is being privately developed by Crossman Homes as 19 apartments, cabinet papers show.
A public consultation held earlier this year, after the council revealed it had bought the Kings Chase shopping centre for £10million, included proposals for a Kings Chase redevelopment with a new leisure centre, a cinema, apartments and office/hot-desk hub.
Public feedback showed “a strong appetite for a new leisure centre and for a mix of uses in a Kings Chase redevelopment”, according to the cabinet report.
If the leisure centre is deemed feasible, it will replace the old council-owned Kingswood Leisure Centre outside the town centre at Soundwell.
According to a provisional design, the new Kingswood Leisure Centre would occupy around 37,000sq ft created by partly demolishing the multi-storey car park immediately behind Sainsbury’s.
Officers note the car park is “seldom more than one third occupied” and that it would be possible to provide extra decked car parking elsewhere on site.
Cabinet members approved the feasibility study and gave officers the green light to publish a final masterplan for the Kingswood regeneration, which is expected to come back to cabinet next spring.
The meeting heard that the public response to the draft masterplan was “overwelmingly positive”.
A cabinet report summarising the findings of the 12-week consultation said: “The most consistent message fed back to officers was ‘it’s about time’.
“There was a feeling that Kingswood has been neglected for too long and is in need of transformational investment.”
Concerns remain among residents and traders about the impact of pedestrianising Regent Street and re-routing traffic through a northbound diversion, however, the report shows.
Council leader Toby Savage pointed out that the restoration of the Whitfield Tabernacle was already underway.
“The scaffolding is up, a roof is being added, the building is being secured,” he said.
“When we talk about masterplans, it’s so important that residents see that these aren’t just another council document to gather dust on the shelf.”
Cllr Savage said the tabernacle will be “restored to its former glory” during the final £2m restoration phase, which got the green light from cabinet on December 13. It is expected to open within 18 months as a cultural centre hosting a heritage, education and arts programme.
The Kingswood masterplan has been in development since summer 2019.The £25 million project is being funded by £12.5million of government Future High Streets funding, £8m of match funding from the West of England Combined Authority, and £5m of proposed borrowing from the council’s investment fund.
By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter