RESIDENTS will be asked to help design a new £18.8m leisure centre for southern Oxfordshire from this week.

Vale of White Horse District Council published the first 3D images for the Wantage and Grove centre ahead of a public consultation opening tomorrow.

However, the authority stressed the graphics, showing cubic blocks and glass frontages, are concepts only and it wants resident to tell it how the new centre should look.

It is also the first time the authority has put a price tag on the long-awaited facility.

Council cabinet member for leisure Charlotte Dickson said: "The new leisure centre is great news for everyone in Wantage, Grove and the surrounding area and I encourage people to have their say on our proposals to help ensure we get it right for the local area."

The new centre is being planned for land next to Wantage Health Centre north of Mably Way.

Doctors at the health centre's two practices previously defeated plans to build a care home on part of the land in order to protect space for their own expansion.

With some 5,000 homes being built in Wantage and Grove in the next 15 years, GPs said it was essential they be able to expand to cater for thousands of new patients.

However, staff at the health centre said they were waiting to see more detailed plans before commenting on the new leisure centre.

The Vale, meanwhile, said it had chosen that site precisely because of its strategic location between the various new housing developments.

At the moment the nearest leisure centre is on Portway on the other side of Wantage and is frequently used by King Alfred's secondary school opposite.

The council said it was aiming to open the new Mably Way centre in 2020 and would fund the entire project upfront, but recover 'significant' contributions from housing developers building in the area.

Mrs Dickson added: "Our aim is to open the new centre in 2020, this will help to ensure we have facilities in place well ahead of many people moving into the new homes and can meet demand as and when it increases.

"The new centre will provide many more opportunities for people to have access to first-class leisure facilities and help to ensure we can meet the increased need as more people move to the area.

"This project really highlights our commitment to investing in leisure facilities across the district to help ensure our residents can live healthy and active lives."

Vale officers will be exhibiting the full draft plans and answering questions at Wantage Leisure on Portway tomorrow from 8am to 8pm.

A second exhibition will be held at the Old Mill Hall in Grove on Thursday, September 21, from 3pm to 8pm.

People can also give their views at or call the project team on 01235 422240 by Wednesday, October 4.