Civic chiefs argue over Winchester's £25,000 jubilee legacy project

Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Robert Hutchison has argued the cash should be used to improve St Maurice's Covert rather than build a community stage Cllr Robert Hutchison has argued the cash should be used to improve St Maurice's Covert rather than build a community stage

CIVIC chiefs have argued over the best use of £25,000 for a Diamond Jubilee legacy project.

The city council cabinet approved plans to build a mobile ‘jubilee event space’ for the Winchester district at a meeting last Wednesday (Jan 16).

It would be a tailor-made stage designed for a variety of users such as bands, theatre groups, exhibitions and workshops.

But Lib Dem Councillor Robert Hutchison told the cabinet the stage was not a priority and the money should be spent elsewhere, such as improving St Maurice’s Covert in the High Street.

He said: “The demand for this is uncertain and not all the costs are factored in. The reason I want to focus on St Maurice’s Covert is it is one of the most important public spaces at the heart of Winchester and it is a complete mess.

“It’s a very important thoroughfare from the High Street to the cathedral yet the cycle racks are in the wrong place and the lighting is disastrous. We are suggesting an urban-design based approach with necessary investment from the county council and Business Improvement District (BID).

“This opportunity, which could be done as a jubilee project, seems to me a much higher priority than investing in a temporary performance space.”

Cllr Hutchison added an alternative project would be to use the money to support the Theatre Royal and Hat Fair.

He said: “They are both suffering through the recession and cutbacks in funding. I’m sure helping these organisations not only survive but thrive would be a better use of £25,000.”

But cabinet members said the funding should go on something that would help the whole district rather than solely the city centre.

Cllr Keith Wood said: “St Maurice’s Covert is something already being looked at by the Town Forum and will come forward through them. These options are very Winchester-centric solutions but we are trying to find something that will please a wider range of people in the district as a whole.”

Cllr Patricia Stallard, portfolio holder for culture, heritage and sport, added: “We are looking to provide something that can be for the benefit of the maximum number of people.”

The council will now commission designs for the project with a shortlist of three to be drawn up by late spring. The final designs would then be put on public exhibition as part of a community consultation.

Winchester Cathedral has offered to store the stage when not in use.

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