Silver Hill back on Winchester Cabinet agenda amid calls for meeting postponement

The latest Silver Hill Scheme proposed by hendersons

Kim Gottlieb launching his Winchester Deserves Better campaign recently

First published in News

WINCHESTER policymakers will again discuss the £150 million Silver Hill scheme next week.

The city council cabinet meets on Wednesday August 6 to look again at the issue of affordable housing in the redevelopment of part of the city centre.

The developer Henderson says providing the previously agreed 100 affordable homes would make the scheme unviable.

A mechanism whereby Henderson makes payments towards such housing depending on the future profitability of the development has been discussed with the city council.

But there is strong public support for including social housing.

The leading campaigner against the scheme is Cllr Kim Gottlieb who has twice this week written to council leader Rob Humby.

Cllr Gottlieb has asked how affordable housing could have been viable in evidence given to the 2012 public inquiry on the compulsory purchase order but non-viable today.

Cllr Gottlieb has written a second letter calling for the August 6 meeting to be postponed, arguing it could be ultra vires or beyond the council's authority to proceed.

His first letter states: "The issue of affordable housing that Cabinet is due to review on August 6 involves a number of questions, including; * How come it is being accepted that no affordable housing is financially viable today?

* How come that only two years ago (at the CPO inquiry) it was considered that a 35% contribution (equating to 100 homes) was financially viable?

* Which of these two positions was correct at the time - they can't both be - and if one of them was wrong, how can we be certain that today's advice is unassailable?

The Cabinet has accepted two reasons for this loss in viability, which has apparently occurred despite the fact that the market has improved, and the fact that the value of the scheme has been enhanced by the addition of 50,000 square feet of retail space and the loss of the cost of the bus garage, amongst other alterations.

The first reason given is that the system of grants for affordable housing has changed, and the second reason is that the developer is going to spend more on the construction of the scheme.

These reasons beg more questions.

* Given that the changes to the grant system predate the Council's 2012 position, how can this first reason be valid? * Given that the changes to the grant system can effectively allow Housing Associations to pay close to full market value for new sites, again, how can this reason be valid?

* What has the developer done to the scheme to raise the construction cost so dramatically (without improving value), and were all their cost assumptions in 2012 incorrect?

* Why hasn’t the Council (as landowner) told the developer to make further scheme alterations before it submits a planning application, so that a substantial amount of affordable housing is made financially viable and the Council’s policy objectives are achieved?

* Given that the Council still has a 40% contribution policy (despite the claimed effects of the changes in the grant system) and demands builders on even the smallest sites to pay a £50,000 per unit contribution, how fair and even-handed is it for the Council to take such a relaxed position on a site it owns itself?

* The one completed previous occasion when the Council agreed to a 'viability mechanism', failed to secure any additional affordable housing, so how can the Council have any confidence that this type of mechanism will secure any more now?

On August 6, the Cabinet is due to review a decision it had already made itself, based on advice on financial viability it has previously received from officers and from external advisors, none of which has been made publicly available for scrutiny.

As regards the 'mechanism', not even the Cabinet has yet seen the document because, as I understand it, there is not yet an agreed draft. Cabinet has simply been told that it will work.

Alongside the issue of architecture and the impacts on heritage and the High Street (and other matters), the issue of affordable housing is of great public concern, and the position of Cabinet appears to be in conflict with both local and central government policy. If there to be any kind of robust and honest examination of the issue, as Full Council has asked of Cabinet, all details and advice on financial viability both today and in 2012 and a draft of the mechanism need to be made publicly available, so that all Councillors can consult and members of the public can properly consider the above and many more relevant questions.

There is no legitimate commercial reason not to disclose all this information and to allow new light to be shone on the matter, as the developer's position (and the Council’s) is secured by contract and by the assessment that their offer represents 'best consideration' - in other words, if their offer is the best offer it can't be bettered.

To ensure the public’s confidence in the process, and in the interest of good and transparent governance, I would ask that you make all this information immediately available, and to allow sufficient time for it to be considered before Cabinet meets to review its previous position.

I look forward to hearing from you."

In a second letter written yesterday (July 29), Cllr Gottlieb said: "I note from the report to committee (CAB 2607) issued earlier today, that the idea of using a ‘mechanism’ to secure affordable housing from the developer has been dropped altogether. In its place is a proposal whereby the only contribution to affordable housing will be made by the Council. None will be made by the developer.

This is a very significant departure from the recommendations considered by Overview & Scrutiny on July 7 and by Full Council on July 16.

It is also at odds with how the public is presently being informed courtesy of the Council’s website, not that the information there was ever particularly clear or detailed.

There will now be a large number of Members away on holiday, who will be unaware of the critical changes made to an important aspect of the matter. The fact that Cabinet is having a special meeting to discuss this one matter obviously confirms its importance.

In the circumstances, the only viable way forward is for the meeting on August 6 to be cancelled, and for the matter to be referred back to Full Council. If Cabinet proceeds without such reference, it is very likely that its decision would be ultra vires.

I look forward to your confirmation that this will occur, by return."

Comments (11)

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7:47pm Wed 30 Jul 14

chumpster says...

Why should people who didn't work hard enough at school get a property in a prime location in one of the countries prime locations, whilst the struggling lower middle class and working-class grafters have to fend for themselves and live in still expensive but far less desirable areas?
Why should people who didn't work hard enough at school get a property in a prime location in one of the countries prime locations, whilst the struggling lower middle class and working-class grafters have to fend for themselves and live in still expensive but far less desirable areas? chumpster
  • Score: 0

8:47am Thu 31 Jul 14

Eastleigh Bloke says...

If the developer can't deliver what was orignially asked for and offered, get a different developer.
If the developer can't deliver what was orignially asked for and offered, get a different developer. Eastleigh Bloke
  • Score: 27

12:07pm Sat 2 Aug 14

GinyGe says...

While agreeing that affordable housing needs to be built, I've always thought it makes more sense to build 'affordable housing' on affordable land, and Silver Hill, because of its central location and historic environment is never likely to be that.
While agreeing that affordable housing needs to be built, I've always thought it makes more sense to build 'affordable housing' on affordable land, and Silver Hill, because of its central location and historic environment is never likely to be that. GinyGe
  • Score: -10

12:15pm Sat 2 Aug 14

SarumSal says...

Agree with all Kim Gottlieb says. WCC managed to get The Brooks through under the radar, and looks like they're at it again. Added to which, all the Cabinet members are Tories. Where's the fair representation in that? It means they will probably all vote the same way, under orders. Silver Hill needs housing, open spaces, a market place - perhaps covered?, a bus/coach station and fewer shops. Go to Southampton for big shops - they are just going to build another megastore there!
Agree with all Kim Gottlieb says. WCC managed to get The Brooks through under the radar, and looks like they're at it again. Added to which, all the Cabinet members are Tories. Where's the fair representation in that? It means they will probably all vote the same way, under orders. Silver Hill needs housing, open spaces, a market place - perhaps covered?, a bus/coach station and fewer shops. Go to Southampton for big shops - they are just going to build another megastore there! SarumSal
  • Score: 28

1:19pm Sat 2 Aug 14

GinyGe says...

I live in the shadow of the hideous Brooks Shopping Centre, so I agree wholeheartedly with Kim Gottlieb regarding the unsuitable size and design of the proposed Silver Hill development. However, and I may be wrong here, but I think the whole debate regarding 'affordable housing' is a smoke screen to get this through planning.
"SO, OK Mr developer, we'll ignore the irregularities in the original tendering of this, and we'll let you build this huge, outdated SEVEN storey complex right slap bang in the centre of the Historic capital of England so long as you stick 100 'affordable housing units' in there".
I live in the shadow of the hideous Brooks Shopping Centre, so I agree wholeheartedly with Kim Gottlieb regarding the unsuitable size and design of the proposed Silver Hill development. However, and I may be wrong here, but I think the whole debate regarding 'affordable housing' is a smoke screen to get this through planning. "SO, OK Mr developer, we'll ignore the irregularities in the original tendering of this, and we'll let you build this huge, outdated SEVEN storey complex right slap bang in the centre of the Historic capital of England so long as you stick 100 'affordable housing units' in there". GinyGe
  • Score: 17

1:49pm Sat 2 Aug 14

J&CBurley says...

Agree with all Kim Gottlieb says. If I had wanted to live in Reading I would have done.

Very disappointed in the Council and this on the heels of the the shambles of their proposals for the swimming pool.

Go back to the beginning. Have an international design competition to see who can come up with the best development. If it looks like a stitch-up, smells like a stitch-up, it probably is!!

C.B
Agree with all Kim Gottlieb says. If I had wanted to live in Reading I would have done. Very disappointed in the Council and this on the heels of the the shambles of their proposals for the swimming pool. Go back to the beginning. Have an international design competition to see who can come up with the best development. If it looks like a stitch-up, smells like a stitch-up, it probably is!! C.B J&CBurley
  • Score: 27

3:57pm Sat 2 Aug 14

jinxy7 says...

However did the planners get permission to put up a building 7 stories high in the middle of Historic Winchester? It will be a disaster for our ancient city.
However did the planners get permission to put up a building 7 stories high in the middle of Historic Winchester? It will be a disaster for our ancient city. jinxy7
  • Score: 19

6:30pm Sat 2 Aug 14

Alan Kenchington says...

If the developer is no longer able to fulfill their contractual obligation, the City should take its business elsewhere. There are any number of highly regarded town planning and architectural practices that would jump at the chance. Perhaps more than one should be involved? Equally there are plenty of other developers that would love to get their teeth into an opportunity of this character, quality and scale. The requisite finance will undoubtedly e forthcoming if the sums add up...

Winchester deserves the best and provided the City takes the long view, can afford it. It certainly cannot afford the mediocre development that is currently proposed: 'Brooks 2 on steroids'.
If the developer is no longer able to fulfill their contractual obligation, the City should take its business elsewhere. There are any number of highly regarded town planning and architectural practices that would jump at the chance. Perhaps more than one should be involved? Equally there are plenty of other developers that would love to get their teeth into an opportunity of this character, quality and scale. The requisite finance will undoubtedly e forthcoming if the sums add up... Winchester deserves the best and provided the City takes the long view, can afford it. It certainly cannot afford the mediocre development that is currently proposed: 'Brooks 2 on steroids'. Alan Kenchington
  • Score: 18

9:12pm Sat 2 Aug 14

chumpster says...

My plan would include a cobbled centre circle with restaurants around the edge (think a mini verona style), and enough space to feel winter sun over the buildings, and speac for evening musical performances etc. So somethiing winchester could be proud of for years to come, and really put us on the cosmopolitian map. Housing can go elsewhere, this is the heart of our city were talking about, not barton mark or badger farm.
My plan would include a cobbled centre circle with restaurants around the edge (think a mini verona style), and enough space to feel winter sun over the buildings, and speac for evening musical performances etc. So somethiing winchester could be proud of for years to come, and really put us on the cosmopolitian map. Housing can go elsewhere, this is the heart of our city were talking about, not barton mark or badger farm. chumpster
  • Score: 9

2:52pm Sun 3 Aug 14

Towag says...

The Brooks has never been liked, but we had to accept it and had that been put to the vote of the citizens as this should be, then we WILL get the same again. I hope this does not happen again. We don't want Brooks 2 !!
I think the Council should ask the citizens of Winchester to decide by vote!! Its the fairest and most democratic way to my way of thinking...!!!
The Brooks has never been liked, but we had to accept it and had that been put to the vote of the citizens as this should be, then we WILL get the same again. I hope this does not happen again. We don't want Brooks 2 !! I think the Council should ask the citizens of Winchester to decide by vote!! Its the fairest and most democratic way to my way of thinking...!!! Towag
  • Score: 8

5:10pm Sun 3 Aug 14

rupertpitt@fsmail.net says...

Kim Gottlieb is right. The scheme is too high and will dominate the city and the architecture is bland and looks uninspiring. Henderson should get another firm of architects possibly Zaida Hadid or the firm who built the new development at Bath. Or the Olympic Games Aarchitects. It beggars belief that the scheme has gone from 30% affordable housing to nothing. Henderson have £12.7 billion under their investment portfolio and yet they claim they cannot afford to build affordable homes. I do not believe it.
Kim Gottlieb is right. The scheme is too high and will dominate the city and the architecture is bland and looks uninspiring. Henderson should get another firm of architects possibly Zaida Hadid or the firm who built the new development at Bath. Or the Olympic Games Aarchitects. It beggars belief that the scheme has gone from 30% affordable housing to nothing. Henderson have £12.7 billion under their investment portfolio and yet they claim they cannot afford to build affordable homes. I do not believe it. rupertpitt@fsmail.net
  • Score: 6

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