PRESSURE is mounting on the developer behind the Silver Hill scheme to prove how they can afford to revive an old version of the project amid fears it has breached trust with Winchester City Council.

TIAA Henderson Real Estate is close to reactivating plans approved in 2009, including a bus station and affordable housing.

Cllr Kim Gottlieb, the anti-Silver Hill campaigner, has threatened further legal action if the project becomes 'unconditional' - taking it out of civic control - before an independent review into council decision-making is completed.

In order to proceed with the 2009 scheme, Henderson must prove to the council that it is financially viable - something company chiefs denied until recently. Their revised plans, submitted on the basis the old 2009 scheme was unviable, were quashed by the High Court in February.

Cllr Martin Tod said: “If it turns out that one of the previous viability calculations was inaccurate and misleading, that's a very serious matter. What that would say is that they lied to us, which is a fairly big deal.”

If this is the case, he said, the council should review the contract to see what constitutes a breach of trust and impose “sanctions” if necessary.

He added: “We need to understand what dimensions they have changed and on what basis they have changed them, to ensure that the numbers are robust and they're not in the business of just making up numbers and hoping we don't blink.”

Winchester City Council has hired two independent consultants to verify the viability claims.

The 2009 plans currently include a new bus station. Stagecoach has repeatedly said it does not want to run it and Cllr Frank Pearson, council leader, has previously warned it would be a “white elephant”.

Meanwhile, solicitor Claer Lloyd-Jones is reviewing the scheme's history over more than 15 years and told the Chronicle that she would report on any mistakes she found were made by the council in that time.

When asked whether this could leave the council unable to stop a scheme which may have been submitted on the basis of flawed process, Cllr Pearson said: “That's a question I've frankly not considered. I guess it's a possibility.

“If that planning application actually is live, unconditional, then by law that planning application exists. We can't change it.”

Anti-Silver Hill campaigner Cllr Kim Gottlieb said he would “almost certainly” take further legal action if the 2009 scheme goes ahead before Ms Lloyd-Jones reports.

He said: “Why bother having a review if you're not really bothered about what the answers are? To let the contract become unconditional before the review is completed is not only completely unnecessary but it would be a matter of gross negligence.

“The whole council will feel let down and deceived.”

Henderson's hopes of saving its revised scheme were struck a blow last week as the Court of Appeal refused leave to appeal the High Court ruling.

The firm will take the case to an oral hearing.

A Henderson spokesman said: “We cannot anticipate the outcome of our appeal and will review the position once this is known.

“In the meantime we will continue to operate in accordance with the terms and conditions of the development agreement, which we are happy to do.”

When the Hampshire Chronicle put Cllr Tod's remarks to Henderson, the spokesman said: "We have no further comments to add."