AROUND 50 people attended the first forum to have a say into how the Barton Farm development shapes up.

But this week uncertainty emerged over the future of builder Cala Homes, which is the subject of a possible sale to a private equity fund.

City council operations director, Steve Tilbury, reiterated at the Guildhall meeting that the developer is free to build the scheme according to current planning consent.

But he said people could still influence the design code, which will play a key role by influencing the detailed plans that have still to be approved.

But some city councillors remained cautious. Cllr Sue Nelmes said: “What I want to be assured of is that we’re going to be allowed to participate in the putting together of the design code, because if we cannot, there’s no point us going on any site visits.”

Cllr Jane Rutter said: “We’re extremely worried about the way in which traffic will be directed from the site. “If it goes through The Worthies, then the infrastructure needed to convey it will totally alter the character of the village.”

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Chris Pines sought assurance that local tradesman would benefit, and that “as Winchester’s biggest employer for the next few years”, the Barton Farm development would bring apprenticeships for young people in the area.

A Cala spokesman said that a log of local tradesman interested in working at Barton Farm was being compiled, but was non-committal on the question of apprenticeships.

Earlier this month more than 100 people had signed a letter to the Hampshire Chronicle calling for the scheme to be revamped, with the re-positioning of Andover Road through the site being the main source of concern — something the developers are not budging on.

A public consultation on detailed plans for Barton Farm will be hosted by Cala at the Guildhall from midday to 7pm next Thursday (January 31).

At the forum, a spokesman for Cala confirmed that London-based architects John Thompson & Partners had been appointed to take care of the first phase of development.

Work on the designs and the first phase is due to be completed by the end of 2013, and building should begin in early 2014 — with the first homes ready by late 2014.

A council report said the scheme is due to take 10-15 years to complete.

The forum will meet about every six weeks. The next will focus on the transport implications of the scheme.

Meanwhile, alarm bells were ringing for one Winchester resident over the possible sale of Cala Homes to a private equity fund run by a former Lehman Brothers banker.

Patron Capital, run by Keith Breslauer, has outbid Taylor Wimpey to take ‘pole position’ in the bid to buy the Scottish housebuilder, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper.

Robert Millar, group land director at Cala, said: “As a business, award-winning homes are the foundation of our reputation and the name Cala is synonymous with a strong adherence to the highest standards of design and construction.

“Cala’s ongoing discussions regarding a potential investment in the business will not affect this commitment, and the group’s financial position remains strong. These discussions are entirely separate to the group’s long-term aspirations for Barton Farm where we remain fully committed to creating a new community we can all be proud of.”

Speaking about the possible Cala sale, Patrick Davies, a senior member of the City of Winchester Trust, said: “Up to a point it does not matter as the detailed plans will be approved and they are the plans that have to be implemented.”