BUS companies are on a collision course with developers of the £130m Silver Hill scheme in Winchester.
Stagecoach’s local director wants buses to continue using the High Street, Middle Brook Street and St Georges Street.
But Henderson and the city council are adamant that removing the buses is vital, to encourage people from the High Street into the new development of shops, offices and homes and to allow the street market to move down to The Broadway.
The current bus station will be replaced by stops along Friarsgate.
Andrew Dyer, managing director of Stagecoach South, said he would seriously consider resisting a traffic order that would close the roads to buses, thus forcing a public inquiry.
Mr Dyer said: “We believe the current route is essential to maintain. The stops by Marks and Spencer are probably the busiest in Winchester at the retail heart of the city.
“Passengers want to be as close to the heart of the city as they can possibly get. Bus access should be maintained for the convenience of customers,” he said.
Mr Dyer added: “We are very much in favour of Silver Hill. We hope for further discussion with all parties to resolve this.”
But yesterday Martin Perry, director of development at TH Real Estate, the part of Henderson handling Silver Hill, said he was baffled by Mr Dyer’s stance, as the board of Stagecoach last week signed an agreement that confirms the removal of buses.
Mr Perry said: “The new routing has been agreed at board level. There is no provision for them to formally object to any traffic orders. The road closures have already been confirmed as part of the compulsory purchase.”
He added: “I don’t know what he (Mr Dyer) is talking about. It is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
“The city council is adamant that they are not going to have buses passing through the centre of town any more. We do not want the retail areas to be separated. Putting buses through would be a recipe for disaster.”
Middle Brook Street could be closed to buses with the shift to Friarsgate stops within six months of construction starting, said Mr Perry. Work is due to start either late this year or early in 2015.
Council leader Keith Wood said of Mr Dyer’s stance: “It would be a great pity if they insisted on doing this. It would affect people walking through Winchester and increase pollution. It would be a retrograde step.”
Mr Dyer said he believed other bus operators Velvet and Blue Star took a similar view to him, but the Chronicle was unable to contact them for comment before going to press.
City councillor Ian Tait, whose ward includes the High Street said: “Shared space with buses is not safe. I think they go too fast. And Stagecoach has chosen not to have a bus station and it is late in the day for Stagecoach to start to drag their heels in.”
But Patrick Davies, senior member of the City of Winchester Trust but speaking in a private capacity, said he was concerned about shifting most buses to Friarsgate. “It would be a deterrent for people using buses if it was not at a convenient spot. It is going to be difficult for people with shopping, pushchairs or the disabled,” he said.
Cllr Dominic Hiscock, whose ward includes Middle Brook Street, said he was concerned to hear of the dispute. He said he was worried by how the new service to the Barton Farm development will be managed. There is also growing public concern about the loss of the bus station.
Mr Perry said a recent change to the scheme would see new bus stops on the Broadway serving the east of the city thus removing the need for a contraflow on the one-way Friarsgate.