Councillor Kim Gottlieb says the scheme for homes and shops will be the “ruin of Winchester for evermore” and has urged the city council to think again.
Cllr Gottlieb, a member of the ruling Conservative group, told the Chronicle: “This scheme is fundamentally wrong. This is a fabulous opportunity we are blowing.”
He has produced 1,000 glossy booklets outlining his concerns over the revamp of the run-down area between the Friarsgate and The Broadway.
The architecture is dull and uninspiring, he says, and the mainly six and seven-storey building will loom over the city centre. “It will tower over even the Brooks which, from a design perspective, will look like a piece of classical architecture by comparison.”
The Silver Hill scheme will suck customers away from the High Street and is outdated. “At a time when virtually every other high street is figuring how to survive years of onslaught by the growth of out-of-town retailing, covered malls and the internet, Winchester is promoting a scheme that will take the centre of gravity away from its own high street and emasculate it.”
Cllr Gottlieb, himself a developer and chartered surveyor, has launched a campaign now because the developer Henderson wishes to make changes to the plans that already have planning permission, including dropping the bus station and most of the affordable housing.
He said: “Because Henderson wants to make significant changes to the consented scheme, the council is in a strong position to negotiate. If it wills, the council can make all the changes that are needed to be made, to ensure that is important regeneration project is a success for the city. It is wrong to assume that it’s all too late and that the development cannot be changed.”
Cllr Gottlieb, who represents the Itchen Valley, has started a website and twitter feed to gain public support. The web address is: www.WinchesterDeservesBetter.com.
He wants to see a smaller scheme, more in line with the council’s own planning brief from 2003 which called for sympathetic regeneration of the area.
“Winchester shouldn’t be in the game of trying to compete with retailing in Southampton or Basingstoke. Retailing is not what Winchester is about. It is about heritage and culture and charm, and about being different from other cities.
“The city has so many good things going for it and the city would be much better off with a development principally based on the city’s heritage and culture, and with an architectural approach, that is aiming to win awards.”
Council leader Rob Humby said: “Cllr Gottlieb has a right to his opinion. I don’t think his views are shared by the majority of other councillors and outside bodies such as the Business Improvement District.
“He was a member of the reference group and had a chance to have input. A lot of its ideas came from him. His website does not make it clear that Silver Hill already has planning approval.”
Mr Humby said the council had taken legal advice, including a QC, that said the council had less room for manoeuvre with Henderson than Mr Gottlieb asserted. “There is a limit to the amount of changes we can make.”
There was due to be a private briefing yesterday (WED) for councillors with Henderson and Allies and Morrison, the architects. The cabinet on July 10 will discuss whether it will allow Henderson to put in an amended application.
Mr Humby added: “The new planning application will be for the planning committee. Everyone will have a chance to have their input. It is wrong to say we have been rushing it. It has been going for 17 years now. To make changes now could set things back years and years.”
That is disputed by Cllr Gottlieb who says a new scheme could be progressed quickly.